The Fountain Theatre Presents Mother-Daughter Tale RUNAWAY HOME

Sometimes what you’re searching for is right where you started. The Fountain Theatre presents a powerful, funny and deeply moving mother-daughter story byJeremy J. Kamps. Multiple award-winning Shirley Jo Finney returns to the Fountain to direct the world premiere of Runaway Home for a Sept. 16 opening.

Three years after Hurricane Katrina, the unhealed wounds of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward continue to fester. Camille Spirlin(ABC’s American Koko, Fox TV’sRosewood, Nickelodeon’s Marvin Marvin) stars as 14-year-old runaway Kali. Rhyming, stealing and scamming her way through the still-destroyed neighborhood, she embarks on a journey to pick through the wreckage of what used to be her life. While the rest of the country’s attention drifts, the neighborhood’s residents are left to repair the damage from the inside out. As their attempts at renewal leave a path of destruction in their wake, Kali bears witness to what the floodwaters left behind…

“This play couldn’t be more timely,” says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “Hurricane Katrina may have ceased in 2005, but the storm of racism, poverty and class inequality rages on in our country to this day. We need look no further than Flint, Michigan, to see systemic government prejudice against citizens of color and the poor. But as Jeremy’s play so beautifully demonstrates, the bonds of family and community will weather any storm.”

When Kamps traveled to New Orleans two years after Katrina to volunteer “gutting and mucking” (stripping homes to the studs to remove mold), he had been teaching middle school in Connecticut. He already had an idea in his head about a runaway girl who collects other people’s garbage, finding meaning in the meaningless.

“Kali’s world paralleled the displacement, hope for renewal, fracture and resilience I was seeing in the social-political reality of the Lower 9th Ward,” he explains. “Whenever a character’s inner life and experience are so congruent with an important social issue, that’s the story I want to write.”

While in New Orleans, Kamps met Antoine, a man in his ’70s who had just returned to what had been his family’s home for generations. Antoine was going from house to house trying to trace relatives, friends, acquaintances and neighbors, to find out what had happened to them in the years since the storm. “His friendship helped me honor the stories of this community in a truthful way – to see the past, present and future of the Lower 9th through their eyes,” says the playwright.

Read the full article from Broadway World here.

Are We Pussy Riot?

Logan Ellis and Barbara Hammond in rehearsal for We Are Pussy RiotKent, WA
©Annabel Clark

Like so much of America, Hammond began following the story art collective Pussy Riot after their it slammed onto our social media feeds in February of 2012. That month, five young women entered Moscow’s Church of Christ the Savior, covered their faces in bright balaclavas, and yarled a punk prayer—“Virgin Mary, put Putin away!” The action was short—guards dragged them out after less than one minute—but the resulting media firestorm was long. After Pussy Riot uploaded a video of the event to YouTube the girls were charged with “inciting religious hatred,” tried and sent to labor camps for two years.

To tell their story, Hammond flooded herself with research material—she read exhaustively, attended protests at the Russian Embassy in New York, traveled to Moscow. The resulting piece, woven from real text and rich with music and audience participation (though not of an arbitrary, invasive variety), views the Pussy Riot story from many angles: the women themselves, the Western media that fixated on them, an orthodox Church employee, a Russian political prisoner without the advantage of Western media attention.

The play premiered at the Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepard University in 2015, where it was a commissioned work. Hammond and Ellis met the following year at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, and she mentioned she’d written a sort-of-musical about Pussy Riot. “When [Theatre Battery] read the play all together, what stood out was how it’s reaching out about international, socio-political events that might feel alien to our audience, but that because of current events in our country are going to feel extremely prescient.”

“This play and this company are a great fit because Pussy Riot was an anonymous art collective, and Theatre Battery is a loose collective of like-minded people with a collective voice,” Hammond says. “Pussy Riot was adamant that no admission was charged to any of their events, and Theatre Battery has radical hospitality.”

Radical Hospitality, a concept pioneered by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, is about eliminating barriers to entry. “Nobody who is not a traditional theatergoer has any reason to believe that 25 dollars or even 10 dollars is a good deal on a play,” Ellis says. “When you have no context, stepping into a storefront theatre with a play that you’ve never heard of is actually a big risk for people and a good reason to not want to do it.” And so, Theatre Battery tickets are free.

“It allows people to get away from the expectation that you’re purchasing a piece of entertainment, and more into the idea that you’re tapping into a community resource,” he says. “Just like a library or a church, everyone is welcome to this, and walking in isn’t going to cost you anything.”

Read the full article from City Arts here.

HUMAN RITES, Written by Seth Rozin, Broadens Your Perceptions at Phoenix Theater

Academia. Culture. Anthropology. In-depth study. Research. Data collection. These hardly seem the buzz words for an impactful and insightful play, yet each of those weighty words holds sway in HUMAN RITES, which is currently playing at Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis…

However, I have saved the best key phrase for last because this powerhouse play centers on two pivotal words: female circumcision. Or is it female genital mutilation? That is the heated and impassioned debate sparked in the close office of Michaela Richards, played by Milicent Wright. This debate unfolds in a riveting fashion that is both jarring and eye-opening as only three characters never cease discussing its many twists, turns, and viewpoints.

It is very clear that the actors in this production made a study of the people they portrayed, for which I am very grateful. As an audience member, you have to watch these individuals talking for 90 straight minutes. And yet, I was never once tempted to look at the clock because I felt like the unwitting scientist who puts his or her subject of study under a microscope and is caught off guard by what awaits…

HUMAN RITES is a fast-paced and riveting invitation to see how deeply perception dictates our reality. Be prepared to have your own eyes opened, your own pre-conceived notions debunked, and your head left spinning with some inevitable questions: who would I be in this debate? And did I win?…

With the flow of HUMAN RITES never stopping and considering the deep, gritty content of the show, I was exhausted as just an audience member by the time it finished. The show covers the cultural view of the practice of female circumcision in explicit detail, so be aware of that before coming in. The constant banter of the actors makes it feel like you are in the room, taking side with the mere three actors.

Not only was I greatly impressed by the acting, but also the sheer stamina it takes to perform this show by Seth Rozin is beyond amazing. Zero stops, zero scene changes, zero costume changes, and pure emotion make this show different than any I have ever seen, which made it all the more impressive.

Read the full stunning review from Broadway World here.

‘TL;DR: THELMA LOUISE; DYKE REMIX’ Book and Lyrics by EllaRose Chary

“TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix” is a parody sequel, queer rock musical that asks the question “why do strong female characters always gotta die?” and turns the death as freedom narrative for women on its head. It starts mid-air in a Thunderbird convertible suspended over the Grand Canyon.

Starring Alison Lea Bender (Academia Nuts NYMF) and COURTNEY DANIELS (Shrek; National Tour) as T and L, TL;DR is backed by a band of badass rockstars. Loud and proud, TL;DR resists the idea that queer/lesbian narratives have to live in subtext and defies the “bury your gays” trope by giving our heroines the ending they deserve. TL;DR takes on the patriarchy, the gaytriarchy, and anything else standing in the way of T and L’s love.

TL;DR has a book and lyrics by EllaRose Chary and music and lyrics by Brandon James Gwinn (Dramatist Guild Fellows, Ars Nova Uncharted Residents, Feinstein’s/54 Below). The production is directed by Sash Bischoff (BWAY The Visit, On The Town, How to Succeed) and musically directed by ELLEN WINTER. The production features Scenic Design by Ann Beyersdorfer, Costume Design by JUSTIN NAKO, and is managed by CHRISTINE J. COLONNA. The band features SAM KASETA (Bass), WES RUIZ (Drums), and JULIET GARRETT (Guitar). NATE BERTONE produces the production.

This show is being produced as part of The Tank’s annual PrideFest 2017! Over the course of two weeks, The Tank is opening the floor to a wide variety of performances and discussions surrounding the topics of sexuality, gender, and equality. The works presented will celebrate this community, address challenges that are still faced as we strive for equal civil rights, and evoke or give way to new ideas and perceptions on how we define ourselves, individually, within our own community, and in the global community at large. Whether through unity or discordance, these performances and discussions, workshops and forums, ought to shed light on the dynamic individuals and groups who make up the vibrant LGBTQIAP community.

For tickets and more information, visit www.thetanknyc.org. Performances are July 6, 2017, 9:30 p.m., July 7, 2017, 7 p.m., July 14, 2017, 7 p.m., and July 15, 2017, 9:30 p.m.  From Broadway World.

MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, directed by Dawn Monique Williams, ‘Makes Hilarious Theater Magic’

One comes to “The Merry Wives of Windsor” expecting broad farce, this being arguably the most comically potent play in the canon. Rich with humor and ribald in plotline, it’s among the most reliable workhorses in the Bard’s canonical stable.

As such, a director might be forgiven for dialing it in. Dawn Monique Williams was having none of that on opening night. Playing to a packed house on a perfect spring evening at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, Williams and her troupe of bawdy thespians set the evening on fire with a night of theater that deliciously walks the line between classic Shakespearean hilarity and an entirely contemporary brand of satire. It takes guts to integrate 1980s culture into a play that was written circa 1597, but that’s what Williams has done, intermittently launching her actors into fabulously entertaining gyrations to the music of Whitesnake, Whitney Houston, and Blondie that somehow work ingenuously with the bawdy nature of the play. On production value alone, the costuming, lighting and musical composition are worth the price of admission — dance numbers by powerhouse choreographer Valerie Rachelle are superb. And we haven’t even gotten to the acting.

Read the full and raving review from Ashland Daily Tidings here.