The American Theatre Critics Association has announced the six finalists for the 2015 Francesca Primus Prize, including New York-based playwright Yasmine Rana. The Primus Prize is offered annually to an emerging woman playwright and includes a $10,000 award.
Rana is a finalist for her play “The War Zone is My Bed” written after extensive interviews with survivors of the Bosnian conflict. The other finalists include Liz Duffy Adams for “A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World,” Tira Palmquist for “Ten Mile Lake,” Nambi E. Kelley for “Native Son,” Sharyn Rothstein for “By the Water,” and Catherine Trieschmann for “Hot Georgia Sunday.” Finalists were selected by a national committee of critics.
Sony Music Masterworks and Broadway Records will release the original soundtrack recording of NBC’s upcoming television broadcast of The Wiz Live! The album will released via all digital service providers on December 11, with CDs hitting shelves December 18.
Shanice Williams leads the company of The Wiz Live! as Dorothy, alongside Queen Latifah (The Wiz), Mary J. Blige (Evillene), David Alan Grier (Cowardly Lion), Ne-Yo (Tin Man), Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow), Uzo Aduba (Glinda), Amber Riley (Addaperle), Common (Bouncer), and Stephanie Mills (Aunt Em).
The Wiz, a retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz stories, opened on Broadway in 1975 and won seven Tonys including Best Musical and Best Score. A 1978 film version starred Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. It was last seen in New York in a New York City Center Encores! Summer Stars revival in 2009, with a cast led by Ashanti, Orlando Jones, and Tony winner LaChanze.
Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun) will stage the live production, which is based on Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown‘s Tony-winning stage version. Four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots) will contribute new material to Brown’s book. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron serve as executive producers, with Universal Television producing.
The live television broadcast of The Wiz serves as the precursor to a Broadway revival, coproduced by Cirque du Soleil’s new stage theatrical division, in the 2016-17 Broadway season. The telecast follows The Sound of Music and Peter Pan in NBC’s annual series of live musical presentations.
Perched atop a spiky chariot, Mary J. Blige rolled onto a set here and began making demands. “What’s that there?” she yelled, pointing to an invisible blotch. Underlings scurried to clean up. “Worrrk!” she bellowed.
Ms. Blige, the enduring R&B star, was rehearsing her part as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, in “The Wiz,” the enduring musical, which NBC will broadcast live on Thursday night at 8, Eastern time. As with its live-broadcast predecessors “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan,” the cast is a mix of Broadway, television and film veterans, alongside music stars like Queen Latifah as the Wiz, and Ne-Yo as the Tin Man. There will be spectacle, too, in the form of Cirque du Soleil acrobats.
Unlike the audiences of the previous shows, Thursday’s viewers may get a chance to see this one again, off screen: “The Wiz” is already scheduled for a Broadway run next year, with much of the same design, costuming and choreography, including the Cirque performers. For the actors, then, it amounts to a live televised tryout.
Ms. Blige has been cramming. In a break from rehearsals last week, she talked about plumbing her “nasty, dark side” and showed off her crimson-tipped nails, which she has been growing long to feel witchy. She lobbied to play Evillene, she said, because the character’s number “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News” is one of her favorites.
“My sister and I were singing this song recently, before I even got the part, just playing around with it,” she said. “Something about that ‘no bad news’ part relates to me now as a businesswoman: I don’t want to hear it. I want you to make it happen.”
For a while, though, it looked as if a full-fledged new “Wiz” might never happen.
An urban adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Wiz” won seven Tonys after it opened in 1975, a milestone for a show with an all-black cast, and introduced the song “Home,” sung by Stephanie Mills, as a radio hit. It became a cultural touchstone, especially for African-American audiences, who grew up on the over-the-top 1978 film version starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, a pricey critical flop that went on to have a devoted following. The show is also a school theater staple.
But a 1984 Broadway revival was short-lived. And a starry Encores! concert production in 2009 at City Center that featured members of the creative team now behind “Hamilton” generated tepid reviewsthat seemed only to remind critics of the show’s flaws.
Read the full article from the New York Timeshere.
My entry point into theater was cast recordings, when I was a kid that was all I listened to (let’s be honest, they’re still basically all I listen to…I listen to cast recordings at the gym). I had a cassette tape when I was very young of songs for kids from Broadway shows?—?“Consider Yourself,” “Getting to Know You,” “I’d Do Anything”?—?that I listened to every night before I went to bed. I memorized the songs. My parents noticed this and they also were musical fans, and so they took me to a variety of local and regional productions. My first really clear memory of seeing a piece of theater is seeing the SECRET GARDEN tour in Chicago (I’m from Gary, Indiana…). My mom and I had watched the number from the show on the Tonys and we had been listening to the tape, and I think that was the first major touring show I got to go to. I remember sitting in the front of the balcony, peering over the edge and watching Mary sing and thinking that could be me, I need to be a part of that.
When did you recognize you were a writer? Or when did you start writing?
I used to write stories when I was in elementary school and everyone would tell me I was a writer, and I would say, “yeah, yeah, I want to be a painter.” And then, in middle school I got picked to write a column for the local newspaper and I HATED it, and everyone said, “oh you’re such a good writer, you should be a writer,” and I said, “No way. I’m never going to be a writer, that’s the last thing I ever want to be after this.” But, there was a musical theater writing class in my high school that was a big deal, where you got to take a trip to New York (from Indiana), so I did that and I loved it, but I still wasn’t going to be a writer, I wanted to be an actor. When I got to college, Brown had this program where students could write musicals for the main stage and I did that with my friends and it started to creep into my mind that MAYBE if I could write musicals, that wouldn’t be so bad. But I was still in denial about being a writer. My playwriting teachers were amazing, and very encouraging, but I don’t think I really accepted that I was a writer and that that was going to be the thing that I was going to do until after I graduated from the Musical Theatre Writing grad program at NYU. I still don’t really love the label, I never want to be one thing, I want to do all kinds of things, so now I say I’m a writer AND…
In 2013, I called David Robson’s Assassin a brutal gridiron drama, a verdict that holds up for his revised Playing the Assassin, now in a thrilling production at Delaware Theatre Company.
His current script builds on his original themes of guilt and recrimination, accidental suffering born of tragic circumstances (the hit didn’t violate rules, but Baker, like his real-life counterpart, Tatum, never apologized) and expands the depth of its humanity.
Some credit goes to Knight’s ferocious performance; like a tiger, he stalks the stage in a partial crouch, ready to unload on offenders, and instills his braggadocio with authenticity. But much goes to Robson, who has added great insight into the relationship of football to society and the evolution of the game as it has gone from a city-vs.-city sport to a corporate behemoth more bent on coddling millionaires and selling advertising and merchandise than on fueling intense rivalries.
The verbal sparring between the never-played Lewis and the veteran Baker accurately captures how football (and all team rivalry based sport) enables populations to sublimate violent urges into something less catastrophic and localized, no matter how violent that surrogate.