Theater Resources Unlimited’s The 2018 TRU Love Benefit, “The Power of Community” honoring Baayork Lee and John Chatterton
The event honors legendary A Chorus Line co-star and co-founder of the National Asian Artists Project Baayork Lee, who will receive the TRU Spirit of Theater Award for a lifetime of creating opportunities for Asian artists. Ms. Lee is choreographing the upcoming 50th Anniversary celebration of A Chorus Line at City Center. Cast members will be coming to TRU to help celebrate her. TRU is also honoring off-off-Broadway maverick, creator of the former OOBR Awards and the Midtown International Theatre Festival, John Chatterton who will receive the TRU Entrepreneur Award for providing 17 years of developmental opportunities for a range of independent theater artists.
Performance and award show will be directed by Jonathan Cerullo, Broadway/NYC choreography consultant for Say, Goodnight Gracie; assistant director and/or choreographer for Band in Berlin, Anna Karenina, The Three Musketeers, original cast of Legs Diamond; and choreographer for Big Apple Circus’ Carnivale! & Picturesque @ Lincoln Center. He will be assisted by Andrew Winans, with music director Lulu Picart and stage manager Jim Semmelman.
APPEARANCES INCLUDE: Members of the recent U.S. National Tour, Japan International Tour, upcoming China International Tour and upcoming 50th Anniversary New York City Center productions of A Chorus Line (Mel Cabey, Samantha Cho Grossman, Aaron Patrick Craven, Giovanni Da Silva, Steven Del Col, Veronica Fiaoni, Lauren Garriott, David Grindrod, Ryan Koerber, Laura Pierpont, Zoe Schneider-Smith, Madison Tinder, Jake Vielbig and Baayork’s assistant Andrew Winans), plus Sam Simahk (Carousel revival, Curly in Oklahoma! at TUTS, 1st National Company of The King and I), will be joining Tony Award nominated Brenda Braxton (Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Chicago); original A Chorus Line co-stars and Tony Award winners Donna McKechnie and Priscilla Lopez; NAAP co-founders Nina Zoie Lam and Steven Eng, as well as selections from MITF musicals Thrill Me! by Stephen Dolginoff, Sistas (the long-run off-Broadway hit) by Dorothy Marcic, Take Me America by Bill Nable, and more!
It all takes place on Sunday, November 4, 2018 from 12pm-4pm at Caroline’s on Broadway, 1626 Broadway, NYC. Tickets are available at Eventbrite(https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tru-love-benefit-2018-the-power-of-community-tickets-50935196544); details about the gala are athttps://truonline.org/events/tru-love-2018/. Tickets start at $50 for the performance only, $115 for performance plus three-course luncheon.
Event committee members include: Broadway/Off-Broadway Producers Lisa Dozier King, Pat Flicker Addiss, and Jim Kierstead and Broadway notables Donna McKechnie and Priscilla Lopez (both from the original production of A Chorus Line) and producer/promoter, Jay Michaels.
Ms. Lee was gracious enough to share a few thoughts with Ai regarding life, career and TRU.
- You are part of American theater history. Not just A Chorus Line – where you were the basis for your character – but two of Rodgers ad Hammerstein’s most pivotal works. How does that feel and how did it influence your career goals?
- Please share with us something about the National Asian Artists Project. What was the inspiration for creating it?
- How has theater changed over the years?
- What does being honored by TRU mean to you?
Robert Viagas is an editor, author, manager, and journalist with more than thirty-five years’ experience, most it working on Broadway with Playbill Inc., the iconic theatre program company. The founding editor of Playbill.com, Playbill’s theatre news website, Viagas has published 19 books on the performing arts, and served as a nominator for the annual Tony Awards.
Playbill placed extraordinary responsibility in Viagas’ hands during the past 21 years to spearhead virtually all of that company’s new projects, notably the widely used and cited theatre news site, Playbill.com, for which Viagas served as founding editor. In addition to Playbill Radio, Viagas also founded Playbill Books (including the Playbill Broadway Yearbook series). He has held various titles at the company over the years. His current title is Special Features Editor, overseeing PlaybillUniverse.com, a new website for the Playbill family of websites, developing content for all platforms, from books and print, to websites and social media.
Always fascinated with the entertainment business, Viagas was a pioneer broadcaster on satellite radio. In 2002 he began hosting “Radio Playbill,” a program of news and recordings that was part of the original content offered at the premiere of Sirius Satellite Radio (now SiriusXM). He later hosted Playbill Radio, a 24-hour web radio service that drew on more than 20,000 tracks that Viagas assembled for Playbill. Viagas also was asked by Sony to supply liner notes for the special 40th anniversary re-release of the original cast album of the classic A Chorus Line. The anniversary package was released in October 2015.
He took over writing and editing the “At This Theatre” column from Louis Botto, hosted the Tony Awards webcasts from 2002 to 2008, and produced the special Tony Awards Playbill each year from 2002 to 2012, and again in 2015. He enjoyed the rare honor of serving on the nominating committee for the Tonys 2012-14.
The New York Times’ CyberTimes described him as “encyclopedic” in his knowledge of Broadway.
Among his other books, Viagas was chosen by the original cast of A Chorus Line to tell their story in On the Line: The Creation of “A Chorus Line” (Morrow) and by the creators of the original The Fantasticks to tell their story in “The Amazing Story of The Fantasticks” (Citadel).
When it comes to the difficult area of collaboration he literally wrote the book on it—The Alchemy of Theatre (Applause Books), consisting of essays on collaboration, in which he worked with the likes of Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, Hal Prince, Chita Rivera and others to codify how one collaborates in the world of theatre. The roll-out book-signing event sold out the 92nd Street Y in 2006.
His 2009 book I’m the Greatest Star! (Applause) contained biographies of the 40 people he considers the most brilliant stars of Broadway musical history, from George M. Cohan and Fanny Brice to today’s Nathan Lane and Sutton Foster. The book was also adapted as a stage musical and presented at Hofstra University that same year.
He is a juror for the annual Boston Science-Fiction Film Festival and Marathon, and performs his solo shows, The 10 Secrets of Broadway and The Ghosts of Broadway at libraries and colleges.
Viagas’ experience extends to the world of classical music. In addition to serving at various times as editor of the Playbill programs for the New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, Houston Ballet, the Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Ballet, he co-authored the book Scales to Scalpels (with Dr. Lisa Wong), about the remarkable Longwood Symphony Orchestra, consisting entirely of professional doctors.
“I draw inspiration from Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Carl Reiner… their ‘laugh till you think’ philosophy”
“I draw inspiration and patterns in my work from the comedic geniuses of Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Carl Reiner. It’s their kind of ‘laugh till you think’ philosophy that I put into my work,” says the ambitious, actor/producer/director/playwright, Jeffrey E. Milstein.
JEM Productions presents the world premiere of his uproarious send-up of the prison system: Fort Dicks, a new musical. Based a true story, Milstein, a prolific author both in NYC and regionally, “lampooning to the tooning of Brooks, Reiner, and Simon” in telling the story of a low-level prison in the famed military installation … and then sets the whole things to music! The dark social commentary is played like a Marx Brothers movie complete with sight-gags and prat falls. The cast features Sean Farrelly & Joe Sherbin; with Marek Ardito-Proulx, Pauline Breeze, Dana Cavagnaro, Carlos Cervantes, Mario Claudio, Sunflower Duran, Annabel Espinal, Donna Glaesener, Dominick Gonzalez, Andrew Gordon, Jason Lee, Federica Morra, Richard Sacher, Lindsy Thomas, and Laura Young
We met with the heir to the humor fortune of Sid Caesar for a few serious words about art and his take on it.
Tell us about the play and what was the inspiration in writing it?
Fort Dicks, The Musical which I wrote the dialogue and lyrics for the songs is about the justice system and how it treats white collar criminals. I will be directing and producing the play at the Chernuchin Theatre at ATA at 314 West 54th Street in NYC. As you can see from the name of the play, it is a comedy which makes fun of the prison system and not the Army camp as you might think. My inspiration in writing the play in 2006, was real life experiences with the system and how unfairly the inmates are treated. If you make fun of the system, it will be corrected.
Tell us about yourself as a director.
I am a full-time accountant with my own business, I have written, novels, plays and a sitcom in addition to acting on stage and on film. I started out as an assistant director and when the cast came to me to make changes, I couldn’t as an AD. So I started writing my own works so I could adapt them to the cast. I have performed plays in New York City and New Jersey of original material that I wrote.
What is your style of directing and how do you go about choosing your team?
My style of directing is actor friendly. When you get a cast for a show, then own you, you do not own them. Since I have acted myself, I know what it’s like on both sides of the stage and I try to work within the cast. I choose my team of actors from actors that I have worked with before and I know what they are capable of and I audition for new talent because they bring a fresh idea to the table.
Do you feel the play resonates with audiences today?
When you speak to people, it is amazing how many have or know of someone that has been incarcerated. Not only is it bad for the accused, but it is a hardship on the family. When they visit the inmate, they are treated like criminals and not family. Nobody should have to go thru that. Recently, due to DNA testing, people have been released from prison after spending years in the institution. THey have lost family, friends and self-esteem. No amount of money can make up for that. The system is wrong and has to be fixed.
You have a solid career in the arts and a good relationship at the ATA. Tell us about directing in NYC – good and bad – and tell us about the venerable ATA – good and -um bad.
It is good to direct in NYC because the talent pool is great. You are able to pick and choose talent from NY, NJ, PA and CT. ATA is a great venue to present new work to a large audience. I like working on a stage that gives the talent different areas of egress and exit from the stage. You do not get that with a small theatre. Even though it is expensive to rent the Chernuchin Theatre, it is good in the long run. James Jennings is good to work with from ATA if he likes the play. He is not into comedy and musicals. Only drama. So this play is not up his alley but I want to take it to the next plateau.
Were you always a playwright or is this a stop in a more intricate journey?
I have been an accountant since 1975 and still am to this day picking up new clients wherever I go. However, I love theatre and would like to make it my life’s work. I enjoy comedy and love the sight gags and shtick that the audience will laugh at. To take their cares away for a few hours is a god send.
What’s your next endeavor?
My next endeavor is a play that I wrote and will perform at my local theatre in NJ called “The Dinner.” It is about a husband and wife who have their son, daughter in law and grand-daughter over to the house for dinner. It is a comedy taken from real life and will be showcased in January 2019. Watch for it. Sight gags and shtick are what makes the play move and the audience to come alive and be a part of the show. We get our energy from a good audience.
FORT DICKS, A MUSICAL
Friday and Saturday November 9 & 10; 16 & 17 @ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday matinées: November 11 & 18 @ 2:00 p.m.
American Theatre of Actors, 314 W 54th St, New York City
Jail time never was this much fun!
British actor, Stephen Bergman, returns to the stage for a staged reading of award-winning playwright, Maura Campbell’s tale of … Stephen Bergman!
Ms. Campbell, while in London on another project, met Mr. Bergman a short film and read his journal about his ordeal and recovery from Stage 4 throat cancer. So taken with the story, she created MASSIVE. Massive concerns George, a British actor who endures intensive radiation and chemotherapy for a massive throat tumor caused by the HPV virus. Thanks to the morphine treatments, George thinks he’s dead – or at least his life is starting to look that way. Left alone with his mother-in-law (who’s addicted to online shopping), a pet Beetle named Prince Hal, and the ghost of his dead brother when his wife is rushed to the hospital herself, George confronts the massive upheaval that is the stage show of his life: the roles he’s played, the disease, the treatment, his debilitating tracheotomy, and those poor souls in the chemo ward who never made it out, alive. All the while an omnipresent Kafkaesque Creature teaches George that grotesqueness and beauty co-exist in every moment and how to live in the world we create for ourselves.
A private (by invitation only) staged reading of the play will be October 29, 2018 at 7PM on Theatre Row, 416 West 42nd Street, New York, NY. For further information, please contact Jay Michaels at JMAE.firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-338-5472.
Campbell and Bergman decided that she would create a stage play tackling the disease, treatment and massive upheaval on the family. Bergman provided the film footage and journal for Campbell’s research.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Bergman about his ordeal and the play that came out of it.
Tell us about yourself as an artist
To be an artist a person has to be creative. This is something I have striven for in my everyday life as well as on stage. Creativity comes in my forms; we can talk about the painter, writer or actor being an artist but creativity can exist anywhere. Acting can be creative and life changing. When an actor takes on a role, they live in someone else’s skin, understand what makes them tick and then present it to the audience. That is a powerful experience for actor and audience. If the world were stripped of creativity then it is a lonely, barren place for all of us.
We can hear the play but tell us YOUR story.
In May 2015 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Cancer. It was on my right tonsil at the back of my throat. From that day my whole life changed. It was a gruelling and torturous time with no respite. Although I have to acknowledge that I am not alone in this experience. There are many people who have been through what I have. Many suffered more and some haven’t survived.
On leaving hospital I decided I had to take back some control of my life. I started filming, took photos and kept an intimate journal not knowing whether I was going to live or die. I think I did it to try and make sense of what was happening to me. I went through seven months of radical treatment; I had massive doses of chemo and radiotherapy. My physical recovery took almost a year but emotionally it was far reaching. It affected my confidence. I had major anxiety, which impacted on my relationships with my wife and daughter. This all went in my journals and film where I recorded my inner most thoughts and fears. I think that is what Maura found interesting.
I soon realised that I had a resource that could be useful. I was approached by an HPV cancer charity to make a 5 minute film supporting the vaccination of boys in the UK. This is where my journey started. From my misery have come the most incredible experiences. I have appeared on television, written newspaper articles, presented at conferences and I spoke to Government about my experience. I even rowed the Mediterranean to highlight the cause. I met Maura in December 2017 as a cast member of ‘Cross Talk’, her fantastic play about addiction. We immediately connected and shared stories from our lives and here we are today with ‘Massive’, a creative collaboration.
We all try to make sense of the world – why do you think this happened to you?
What happened to me is ‘life’. It wasn’t a judgement on my life style. HPV is passed by intimate contact. 80% of adults in the UK and US carry it without ever knowing. It is responsible for 5% of all cancers globally. For most nothing will ever happen; for the unlucky few it mutates into cancer.
How do you look at life and the arts now?
I live life much more in the ‘now’. If I have an idea, I get on and do it. It is partly about my age but it is also because I had a near death experience. When I first met Maura, she was honest and open, which was refreshing and appealing. That helped me share my story with her.
Maura Campbell is a great playwright. She can take the big subjects and write sensitive and witty dialogue without losing the serious message. I believe this play has happened for a reason. All art is there to entertain but great art entertains and we learn from it. ‘Massive’ certainly does that.
‘Massive’ is a universal story of a family that have to live with a cancer sufferer. I am a positive person who wants to enjoy life to the full. A dreadful thing happened to me but some very good stuff has come out of it.
This play needs to be seen by a much wider audience. There is so much to connect with. It is about how people cope under adverse, life threatening conditions.
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
TaRaRaBOOM: A Three Sisters Mishmash
Adapted from Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, with original songs, movement, and text adaptation by Rebecca Strimaitis, Billy Calder, Danny Goodman, Laura Kruegel, and members of the Crash company.
CRASH Theatre Company’s reimagining of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, retitled TaRaRaBOOM: A Three SistersMishmash, actually presents the original characters, conflicts and key speeches of the Russian classic more or less intact. What CRASH has added is various sorts of absurdist fun, including several songs, a dance or two, and impressionistic staging tricks that make this an innovative meme-ification of the modern classic.
The play still tells the story of the Prozorov sisters, trapped in their family’s remote country estate, longing for the elusive happiness represented by the chimera of their stylish urban existence in long-lost Moscow. But TaRaRaBOOM adds energy and dark humor to Chekhov’s tragicomedy, as it gradually becomes clear that none of the sisters—or the collection of people who orbit around them—is likely to ever find the happiness that they crave in life.
The best performances are the ones that capture the distinctive voices of Chekhov’s characters, notably Kristen Alyson Browne as the youngest sister Irina who feels like her life is over before it’s really begun; Matthew Christian as the cuckolded Kulygin; Justin Packard as the soldier Vershinin whose stoicism begins to crack; and Elijah Guo as the lovesick and doomed Baron.
The whole company alternates playing the role of Natasha, the commoner who marries the Sisters’ brother Andrei and gradually comes to dominate the household—possibly making the point that there is a little Natasha in all of them.
The production would benefit from some fine-tuning. When the talismanic word “Moscow” is uttered, everyone shouts “Moscow!” in unison. It’s funny at first but the gag is done maybe three times too often. The show’s new title comes from the refrain of the 19thcentury vaudeville song “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,” sung repeatedly by the semi-senile character Chebutykin in the original script. Considering that it is used as the title for this version, it should have been offered more prominently.
The adaptation is credited to four company founders, three of whom appear in the cast, working from an uncredited translation. Despite the liberties taken and the helium injected into the play, TaRaRaBOOMstill manages to arrive at Chekhov’s heartbreaking ending.
TaRaRaBOOMis being presented by CRASH Theatre Company at Access Theater, 380 Broadway, Manhattan. Performances continue through October 7. CRASH is described as an emerging collective formed by Calder, Strimaitis, Kruegel and Goodman, all graduates of The American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater MFA Acting Program at Harvard University.
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
Written, directed, and featuring Joshua Crone
“The past is the hardest substance known to man,” says one of the characters in one of the best lines of Joshua Crone’s drama, Squatters. But the present is much more nebulous, malleable and mysterious in this “Twilight Zone” episode of a two-hander, making its American premiere Off-Off-Broadway.
Set in an empty apartment overlooking the still-smoking ruins of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Squatters tells the story of a woman and a man who pick each other up at a bar and retreat to the empty apartment for a “tryst” next to the grim site. But as it turns out, things are nowhere near as they seem. Maybe these two have met before. In fact, maybe they grew up together. In fact—well, the surprises keep coming and shouldn’t be spoiled, especially the last two that are revealed in the play’s final moments.
Author/ director/leading man Crone plays a stoic and introspective U.S. Marine who may be getting ready to ship out to Afghanistan, or perhaps he has deserted, or perhaps he has another reason for being there entirely. His play seems to be disjointed at first, but as the pieces fall into place you start to see how carefully assembled the story is, and how carefully he disassembles it again for you.
Sexy and vivacious one minute, abruptly pouting and wounded the next, Dori Levitt always keeps the audience slightly off-balance, hinting that perhaps something bigger and stranger is at work here. She commands the stage and is a real find.
Though Squatters is just now making its New York stage premiere, this neat little nesting doll of enigmas has already had a long and varied life, having enjoyed stages success in Germany and London. Now it comes to America for the first time.
Squatters is being presented the NuBox Theatre at 754 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan. Performances continue through September 30.
What do practically ALL independent theaters and company have in common other than a passion to present great art… Joan Kane and Bruce A! Kraemer.
For a decade or more, Ms. Kane has helmed shows at nearly every prominent theater company and festival in NYC. With Bruce, – and armed with advise from one of off-off Broadway’s founders and champions, they formed Ego Actus, a diverse and powerful theatrical company dedicated to providing audiences with a complete theatrical experience – from developed scripts to the best production values. Kane and Kraemer (btw, his middle name IS punctuated with an exclamation point… it’s not a typo) are not just fine theater producers but dedicated priests of the temple of the arts, weaving a tapestry of quality live stage works that will serve as a learning tool for generations to come.
Now they are cleverly voicing political opinions – not in protest but with a simple example. They’ll give no credence to deficient examples of the presidency… they’ll hand us a story of a REAL president. Ego Actus’ production of Give ’em Hell, Harry! holds a candle up to the nature of Harry S. Truman. A president interested in war … as in ending it.
Stage and film actor, J. Dolan Byrnes takes command of the role from October 18 – 28 (Thursday – Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p,m.) at the Episcopal Actors Guild, 1 East 29th Street, NYC. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at https://www.artful.ly/Ego-Actus.
Let’s hear from the power couple themselves.
Tell Us About Yourselves as Artists
Joan Kane and Bruce A! Kraemer have both been in the New York City theatre scene our entire adult lives. We work so closely together that sometimes it seems that our marriage is a 24/7/365 production meeting. Joan directs, Bruce designs, we both produce. We like working together and find that our separate talents compliment each other. What we don’t do, we hire other people for. For example, we never act in our shows.
What made you decide to bring back Samuel Gallu’s “Harry?”
Harry Truman was a completely honest man. The contrast of him and his presidency to current events and the current office holder could not be more stark. This play demonstrates that honesty works. The current administration proves that dishonesty only breeds more dishonesty and everyone suffers as a result
Hmmmm, I think I now have my answer but, let’s get to the elephant in the room; are you making a statement about today’s political climate?
We are totally making a statement about today’s political climate. The Harry Truman was so much more like what a president should be than the current guy. People need to be reminded that civility, honesty, fairness and compassion for the common man are what leadership are supposed to be about.
Ego Actus is a very busy company! Tell us about the company and why you started it?
Ellen “LaMama” Stewart was something of a mentor for Joan and when Joan asked her how to get hired as a director, Ellen said something llke, “Don’t wait for someone else to hire you, do your own thing. So we formed Ego Actus in 2009, right around when our children finished college. We choose to do plays we like and, as it happens, about 60% of those plays have been written by women, although we do not give ourselves a specific mandate to be feminist.
How has the world changed in the time you’ve been doing theater? How has the theater changed because of it?
The world keeps changing like crazy, It used to be that you could characterize decades as having signature social mores, styles and arts. Now things change radically, sometimes from one season to the next or even faster. The theater not only has to keep up, It has to keep ahead of the curve. This means shows have to be short and on point at all times. Technology has to be sophisticated and current. These days all but the most modest independent theaters have computer operated lighting, sound and often projections.
The next production from Ego Actus will be Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara, by Fengar Gael, directed by Joan Kane, opening at the HERE Arts Center November 2 and running through November 18. We are also currently in negotiations for some 2019 projects