“The Free Wheelin’ Insurgents” by Psalmayene 24 Featured in “Indigenous Earth Voices”

Psalmayene 24

Proving that a theater can be groundbreaking even when its grounds are closed, Arena Stage is launching a virtual spring season that includes a film about Indigenous North Americans and their relationship to the land — entirely written, directed and acted by Native people.

“Indigenous Earth Voices” will premiere in May, the fourth in a series of pandemic-era films that Arena Cultural Director Molly Smith has produced since the start of the outbreak that shuttered theaters around the world. Following the template of the other docudramas, which included “May 22, 2020” and “The 51st State,” “Indigenous Earth Voices” features the verbatim words of Native American and First Nation subjects from the United States and Canada as fashioned into monologues by Indigenous playwrights and actors.

“It’s a ‘heart’ project for me,” Smith said in a phone interview. “I just realized that more than half my life I’ve spent with Indigenous people, whether being in Alaska or being married to a Yankton Sioux.” Before coming to Arena in 1998, Smith spent 18 years at the Juneau company she founded, Perseverance Theatre, and her wife, Suzanne Blue Star Boy, is an artistic adviser on the film.AD

The movie is a key ingredient in a wholly reimagined 2021 for Arena. In a plan announced last July, its in-person performance season was to have started up again last month, with the world premiere of Eduardo Machado’s “Celia and Fidel.” Now that play, which was forced to close last March, and four other productions will be presented later, and subscribers have been offered refunds or exchanges.

The digital roster replacing them will also include a free streaming series called “Arena Riffs”: three original filmed musicals, each 20 to 30 minutes and debuting in March and April. Actor-director Psalmayene 24 will unveil his “The Freewheelin’ Insurgents,” a “pandemic-era hip-hop musical,” to be joined by as yet untitled projects by the indie-folk duo Shaun and Abigail Bengson and composer Rona Siddiqui.

Shannon Dorsey during filming in Rock Creek Park.
Shannon Dorsey during filming of “The Free Wheelin Insurgents,” by Psalmayene 24 in Rock Creek Park. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

“These are fully conceived and created for the virtual form,” Smith said, adding that the short versions may be developed into longer productions, possibly even for live stagings. “The artists in all three have said they have a hunger to continue to build on these projects, so we shall see.”

Psalmayene 24 was shooting “The Freewheelin’ Insurgents” in the District’s Rock Creek Park on Sunday, with four other actors: Louis Davis, Shannon Dorsey, Gary L. Perkins III and Justin Weaks.AD

“It’s the story of a cadre of hip-hop theater artists who are meeting to rehearse in Rock Creek Park,” said Psalmayene 24, who wrote three songs for the piece, with choreography by Tony Thomas and music direction by Nick “tha 1da” Hernandez.

“It explores issues like violent versus nonviolent protest, love and mental health,” he added. “And these artists are grappling with the inability to do what they love doing the most, which is live theater.”

Washington theaters have been increasingly active in creating content online, even if the monetary returns are meager. Arena has been particularly active in filmmaking. As Psalmayene 24 noted: “That’s one of the positive things that have come out of the pandemic. It’s forcing us to be creative. That’s what we need as artists: We need to be locked in a box to figure out how to break out.”

Arena will again offer digital classes with actors, playwrights and others, including such artists as Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Nehal Joshi and Machado. But perhaps the most noteworthy offering is “Indigenous Earth Voices,” by virtue of the unusual fact that a major American theater company is providing a breadth of opportunity to Native artists who struggle for national recognition.

Read the full article by Peter Marks for the Washington Post here.

Bobby Frederick Tilley Wins Best Costume Design for BE MORE CHILL from the 2019 Theatre Fans Choice Awards

BroadwayWorld is pleased to announce the winners for the 17th annual Theater Fans’ Choice Awards, by FAR, the largest fan based awards of their kind. Open to anyone to vote, the awards present a full slate of eligible nominees in categories that both mirror the popular critical awards, as well as fan favorite categories for Best Tour, Ensemble and Off Broadway shows.

A record number of fans participated in voting for this year’s awards, doubling the number of votes from last year alone.

BE MORE CHILL leads with a total of 10 wins, followed by HADESTOWN which took home 5 awards. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD also takes home 5 awards.

Best Costume Design

Bobby Frederick Tilley II – Be More Chill

Learn more about the winners of the 17th Annual Theatre Fans Choice Awards here.

BWW Review: A Community Copes with Trauma in World Premiere of NO CANDY, at Portland Playhouse

by Krista Garver  Jan. 24, 2019 

BWW Review: A Community Copes with Trauma in World Premiere of NO CANDY, at Portland Playhouse

Everyone deals with trauma in different ways — some people throw themselves into their work, some create art, some sing karaoke. In Emma Stanton’s NO CANDY, now having its world premiere at Portland Playhouse, a multi-generational group of Bosnian Muslim women who survived the Srebrenica genocide do all of these things. Directed by Tea Alagic, who is Croatian and was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, NO CANDY reveals the power and fortitude of the human spirit. At times, it gave me chills. At times, it’s also quite funny.

NO CANDY centers on the lives of four women — Zlata (Mia Zara), Uma (Sharonlee McLean), Olena (Nikki Weaver), and Fazila (Val Landrum) — who run a gift shop near the Srebrenica memorial. The women all lost much (husbands, children, homes…) in the war. Meanwhile, Fazila’s daughter, Asja (Agatha Olson), and her friend Maja (Jessica Hillenbrand), who were just children at the time, don’t understand exactly what happened or why their lives changes so drastically. It’s about holding on, letting go, and supporting one another.

The cast is superb. Val Landrum is excellent as Fazila, the owner of the store who’s struggling to relate to her daughter and has recently started having visions of her dead husband (Ben Newman). She gets the big dramatic moment of the show, a monologue that she delivers exquisitely. Sharonlee McLean is also perfectly cast as Uma, the oldest member of the group and the one who provides both perspective and humor. And those chills I mentioned? All thanks to Croatian-born actress Mia Zara. Zlata is the group’s karaoke singer, and Zara’s magnificent and haunting rendition of a certain 90s grunge song had the whole audience holding their breath.

In addition to Zara’s singing, the most impressive aspect of the production is the set. Peter Ksander uses every corner of the space, including what’s usually the corridor, to create a set with six distinct areas, with a projection on one wall for those who might not be able to see them all clearly. It’s a nice touch, though I was happy to be sitting near the center, where I could see at least most of the action unfold live.

Overall, I recommend NO CANDY very highly. It deals with difficult subject matter and isn’t always easy to watch. But it’s eloquently written, beautifully acted, and an important reminder of the horrors of war and the importance of community.

NO CANDY runs through February 10. More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Brud Giles.

Read the full article on Broadway World Portland.

Everyday lives, extraordinary stories?—?I Do! I Do! playing at Village Theatre

Onstage power couple, Kendra Kassebaum and Peter Saide, put on a formidable two-person performance in Village Theatre’s I Do! I Do!The play begins the day they are wed in 1895 and ends fifty years later in 1945. In-between we glimpse personal and often funny moments as well as insight into each partner’s perspective and emotions as characters Agnes and Michael deal with the timeless nuances of marriage. Although the setting is historical, the rhetoric and situations are ultimately just as relevant to present-day relationships. But it is other aspects of this play that make it truly remarkable.

The audience at Francis J. Gaudette Theatre. Photo courtesy of Village Theatre.

Opening night

The opening night performance was extraordinary. Members of the audience and I were either laughing or completely silent, fully engrossed in the lives of the characters. I purposefully came to the play knowing nothing of the story in order to have a fresh viewpoint. Near the end of the first act, I realized that Kendra and Peter’s two-person performance felt like that of an entire cast. Other characters were woven into the story in such a way that the mere mention of them brought them to life. I could almost see the priest and wedding-goers in the church and I just knew the baby was playing as her mother tidied up.

50 years goes by

At the beginning of the play, two young people stood on the stage saying, “I do!” At the end, two elderly people hobbled away. Wardrobe and makeup changes seemed to happen almost entirely onstage and yet, Agnes and Michael aged. How? The actors, subtly and convincingly, grew old?—?slight changes in posture, gait, speech and costume combined to simulate the passage of time, a tribute to the actors’ talent.

A transforming set and talented actors. Photo courtesy of Village Theatre.

Transforming

The original Broadway play’s set was wholly in the couple’s bedroom. Village Theatre took a similar, yet at the same time, entirely different, approach. Three separate sets of moving cabinets provide an endless supply of furniture on demand as well as partitions when needed. Just as the set for Matilda was brilliant in its use of sometimes larger-than-life symbolic backdrops, the cabinet set for I Do! I Do! is brilliant in its pure functionality. I would love to meet Master Scenic Artist Julia B. Franz and Scenic Designer David Sumner, who are likely fans of Swedish furniture design and Transformers. The end result of this set style is that at any point during the evening, it can be any room at all simply by closing one cabinet door and opening another. Incredible.

The lobby of Francis J. Gaudette Theatre. Photo courtesy of Village Theatre.

After feeling every emotion possible, I sighed as the play ended and it was time to rehash it all with my husband. It made us both contemplate deep topics like the fleeting nature of life our gratitude for each other.

Details

I Do! I Do! is playing at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah, Washington now until February 24, 2019, then at the Everett Performing Arts Centerin Everett, Washington March 1–24, 2019. Watch the play for entertainment, insight and to enjoy the talent.

Thank you

A big “thank you!” to Ann Reynolds for her help. Ann, Village Theatre is lucky to have you!

Read the full article on Medium.

World Premiere Of THE LAST WIDE OPEN Debuts Feb. 9

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will present THE LAST WIDE OPEN, a love story that encourages audiences to take a personal, humorous look at modern-day courtship, romance and relationships, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It begins Feb. 9 in the Shelterhouse Theatre and runs through March 10, with support from The Rosenthal Family Foundation, Season Sponsor of New Work. Opening night is Feb. 14.

The world premiere, under the direction of Artistic Director Blake Robison, was written by Playwright Audrey Cefaly and described by Cefaly as “a love song in three movements.” This romantic tale sweeps the audience up into three different realities in which the same characters attempt to forge a connection despite language barriers, personal stories and histories, and cultural differences.

The production, which features original songs with lyrics by Cefaly and music by Composer/Sound Designer Matthew M Neilson, follows Lina, a waitress, and Roberto, an Italian immigrant. The two find themselves on completely different paths of their own creation giving the show an element of fantasy.

THE LAST WIDE OPEN takes place in the twilight hours of an ordinary night on a normal day during a thunderstorm. The date is May 5, present day. The location is Frankie’s, a small Italian restaurant that is closed for the evening. Two characters, Lina and Roberto, enter onstage. She is an emotional person and a dreamer. He is a poetic and generous Italian immigrant. They are about to share their fate-filled love story – imagined in three different realities.

“THE LAST WIDE OPEN began as a short, 30-minute play called Clean,” Robison explained. “I loved that play, but it was too short to program into our season as a full evening of theatre. So, when the playwright, Audrey Cefaly, told me that she wanted to expand it into a full-length work, I jumped at the chance to collaborate with her. We commissioned her to write the newly expanded version, and I fell in love all over again.”

Read the full article here.