Winner of the 2002 Tony Award for Best Play, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? is a tragically comic play with a simple albeit deeply disturbing premise: a married man falls in love with a goat. And no, he doesn't just love the goat like a pet; he is attracted to the animal. Once his wife finds out this sordid truth, all hell (and a lot of vases) breaks loose.
Edward Albee is the author of many plays, including the award winning Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Seascape. Much can be said of his work, but the first word that comes to my mind is "innovative." Albee never writes the same play twice. Each new work explores different territory. Although the themes can be unsettling and the format may sometimes border on avante-garde, his plays always offer new insight into the human condition.
David Mamet is an expert perturber. Within ninety minutes he unnerves his audience, giving couples something to argue about on the way home. I've listened to supposed soul mates debate to the verge of relationship meltdown, all because of the sexual harassment issues presented in Mamet's play, Oleanna. Likewise, in other plays such as Speed the Plow, the audience is never quite sure which character is right and which character is wrong. Or perhaps we are meant to be perturbed by all of the characters, as we are with the unethical batch of salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross. By the end of David Mamet's 2009 drama Race, we meet several manipulative characters, all of whom will leave the audience with something to think and something to argue about.
Race is a seemingly simple four-person play. Jack Lawson (white, mid 40s) and Henry Brown (black, mid 40s) are attorneys of a burgeoning law firm. Charles Strickland (white, mid 40s) a prominent business man, has been charged with rape. The woman accusing him is black; the lawyers realize that the case will be all the more difficult because race will be a central issue throughout the trial. The men expect Susan, a new attorney with the firm (black, early 20s) to help determine whether or not they should accept Strickland as their client, but Susan has other plans in mind.
This Saturday, my cast will be presenting a world premiere version of The Little Mermaid, in front of a crowd of demanding ten-year-olds and their hopeful grandparents. No pressure. At least, there's no pressure for me. I will be backstage pulling curtains up and down. However, some of my actors might very well be sweating bullets and taking a few last glances at the script before they go on stage to present their characters to the world for the very first time.
Opening night can be a very daunting experience, especially if the rehearsal process has been rocky. However, there's good news for actors who felt that the dress rehearsal stunk. (At least it's good news if you are a superstitious actor.) According to a long-held theater philosophy, if you have a bad dress rehearsal, that means you'll have a terrific opening night! Learn more about this long-cherished superstition.
For some actors, the biggest challenge is not how to cry on cue, but how to laugh on command. When you think about it, laughter is pretty darn strange. It's a spontaneous, often subconscious reaction to social situations. Typically, we laugh more when we are around others. We might only exhibit when by ourselves watching a funny movie on television. However, if we were to watch the same film with a large audience, we let loose the belly laughs.
The sounds of laughter are similar no matter what country you are visiting. Most laughter consists of H-sounds: Ha, ho, hee. Other bursts of laughter might contain vowel sounds. Believe it or not, there's an entire field of science dedicated to the study of laughter and its physical effects. It's called gelotology. (I would have thought that would be the name for Jello Science. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)
Learning about the mental and physical aspects of laughter can help actors become more adept at producing laughs on cue. Learn more acting tip on how to create realistic laughter for your characters.
We've all been there. Sitting at the theater. Mesmerized by the brilliant actors. Caught up in an incredible story. Then, all of a sudden, we hear that ring tone. Maybe it's that familiar marimba sound. Maybe it's a funky hip-hop jam. Maybe it's just a good, old-fashioned ring. Whatever the sound, it's annoying, not just to the audience but to the actors on stage. For those of us who always remember to turn off our cell phones before the curtain goes up, you'll get a kick out of this story:
While trying to watch the musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Journalist / critic Kevin Williamson was so distracted by a rude theater goer who refused to put away her i-phone. After being insulted by the woman, Williamson finally grabbed the phone and flung it across the room. A bit of chaos ensued, which you can read about in detail in this article featured on the Gothamist. The incident reminds me of another cell-phone atrocity which happened when Hugh Jackman was performing an intense role in the play, A Steady Rain. Find out how Mr. Jackman responded!
The Tony Award buzz for best new play has been echoing the names Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the title of Christopher Durang's latest comedy to tackle Broadway. Rumor has it, anyone even vaguely familiar with the characters of Anton Chekhov's plays will find Durang's new work hysterical. And if even you've never seen The Seagull or Uncle Vanya, you'll still get a kick out of this show, simply because it's so refreshingly oddball.
The story line is filled to the brim with Chehovian themes: the weariness of middle age, the meaninglessness of fame, and the fleetingness of youth. Durang mixes a modern setting and a splash of pop-culture with the pessimistic nature of Chekhov's characters, throwing in a psychic cleaning lady named Cassandra, just to keep things zany. You can learn more about the play, and catch a wonderful glimpse at the rehearsal process by watching the McCarter Theatre's Youtube video. There's also an adroit New York Times review that provides an insightful overview of the many Chekhov connections.
What's your favorite play by Christopher Durang? I love Beyond Therapy, not just because it's funny but also because the leading role was originated by the incredible John Lithgow. Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Want to watch a controversial play for Mother's Day? Then consider the one woman show: The Testament of Mary, written by Irish author, Colm Tóibín. It's one of the new works nominated for Best Play this Tony Award season, and it asks some challenging questions about religion, divinity, society, and parenthood.
Actress Fiona Shaw plays Jesus' mother in a way that my shock many Christian theater goers. Mary doubts that her child Jesus is the Son of God. And she doesn't wish to cooperate when the apostles try to record the gospels. Of course, Tóibín's play isn't the first drama to offer its own spin on the New Testament. The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, for example, revisits the gospels in trial format, pitting attorneys against each other to determine the fate of Judas' soul. And, who can forget Andrew Lloyd Webber's 70s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar?
Do you enjoy plays that offer their own take on religious doctrine? Is it intellectually invigorating? Insulting? Pointless? Wonderful? Leave a comment and share your views.
From Cinderella's step-mother to the dream-stealing Mama from Gypsy, mothers are not often portrayed in a positive light. Sophocles, Tennessee Williams, and many others have all taken pot-shots at matriarchs. Fortunately, positive mother characters can be found some terrific musical theater productions. Here are some perfect examples:
The Light in the Piazza: Adam Guettel's melodic drama explores mother/daughter relationships deeper than most other musicals. The story: 26 year old Clara and her mother Margaret are touring through Italy. The young woman meets a Roman hunk, and it's love at first sight. Throughout the play Margaret offers warnings, guidance, and wisdom to her daughter. All the while, she must learn to say goodbye to her little girl.
If you want to virtually guarantee a host of Tony Award nominations, it seems all you have to do is revive Edward Albee's classic, caustic drama: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Less than ten years ago the show was on Broadway, starring my favorite clown turned tragedian, Bill Irwin (who, by the way, took home a Tony Award for Best Actor that year). This latest incarnation of Woolf? is a product of the uber-cool-Chicago-based-theater-troupe, Steppenwolf Theatre. The current production features Amy Morton as Martha and Tracy Letts as George, both of whom are nominated.
If the name Tracy Letts is familiar, that's because his Steppenwolf plays August: Osage County and Superior Donuts have both been to the Great White Way. Now Mr. Letts has temporary set down his pen to tread the boards. Want a glimpse of his (and Morton's) performance? Check out this Youtube preview of Albee's most popular play.
The Tony Award nominations have been released, and Kinky Boots takes the lead with an impressive thirteen nods. This musical is a breath of fresh air in several ways. Sure, it's based on a movie -- like a lot of other Broadway shows these days -- but at least it's based upon a lesser known movie, a British indie most Americans probably haven't seen or heard about. But here's the totally awesome part: Cyndi Lauper. Yes, I just said "totally awesome," reverting back to my 1980s heritage. Before you gag me with a spoon, allow me to explain. Ms. Lauper has truly re-imagined herself as a songwriter/artist, using her distinct musical style to tell the audacious yet heart-warming story of a young man who wants to save his family business. How? By no longer making boring old dress shoes and instead making "kinky boots" for drag queens!
Another great reason to check out this show: Harvey Fierstein. He wrote the book for "Kinky Boots," adding to his long list of Broadway successes, including Torch Song Trilogy and A Catered Affair. Learn more about this new high energy comedy, Kinky Boots!