Tim J. Lord Receives a 2023 Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts

Tim J. Lord is the recipient of a 2023 Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts recognizing his work as a playwright. The Fellowships are competitive awards granted to New Jersey-based artists in 12 rotating disciplines in order to help them produce new work and advance their careers. For this fellowship Tim submitted his play WE DECLARE YOU A TERRORIST which the selection panel evaluated to be of “very high artistic quality.” He will use his fellowship funds to support the completion of his radical re-imagining of an Oedipus trilogy that resets the story in a contemporary version of Thebes and re-focuses the classic story on the people at the fringes of society who are forced to cope with the failures of their leaders.

‘Opera for All’ Maryland Opera Studio to Perform Contemporary Works in Weekend Dedicated to Female Composers ‘Opera for All’

illustration of woman in water
The best-known opera composers tend to have one thing in common: They’re men. This weekend, the Maryland Opera Studio presents new works by New York-based female composers Justine F. Chen and Missy Mazzoli.
“TWA” graphic by Eric Wheatley

From Claudio Monteverdi to Benjamin Britten, the classical music canon’s best-known opera composers tend to have one thing in common: They’re men.

This weekend, the University of Maryland’s Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) presents new works by New York-based female composers Justine F. Chen and Missy Mazzoli. Though both operas take on timeless themes—including love, jealousy and the pursuit of wealth—and are at least partially set in the past, they aim to resonate with modern audiences.

“These works show opera is still living and breathing,” said soprano Kira Neary, a second-year Master of Music student who will perform in Mazzoli’s “Proving Up” on Saturday night. The 2018 piece, which The Washington Post called “a true opera of our time,” is a commentary on the American dream as experienced by the Zegners, a fictional family of 1860s homesteaders.

“Of course, there will always be a certain joy for me in performing works from the 18th and 19th centuries,” Neary said, “but there is something so exciting about a work written by a young, contemporary voice, with a message that is so timely.”

Chen’s “TWA,” commissioned by MOS and composed in collaboration with its singers, was inspired by the historic folk ballad “The Twa Sisters,” which recounts the tale of a girl drowned by her lovesick, jealous sister.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have such a well-established composer write a work for our singers,” said MOS Director Craig Kier. “This is our form of scholarship. This is our form of research. And this is our way of moving the operatic canon forward.”

Chen signed on librettist Jaqueline Goldfinger to create an episodic work in two acts. The first retells the dramatic tale, while the second looks at the story through the present-day lens of social media and internet trolls.

“I want to make opera something that everyone feels is relevant to their lives now,” said Goldfinger. “Canonical works are great works, and they should be performed. But if we’re making something new for today’s audiences, it should reflect their lives. This is really an opera for all.”

Throughout the process, Chen and Goldfinger met with MOS students, individually and as a group. Chen called the singers “fascinating individuals” and said: “I’m so happy to be working with them.”

For first-year Master of Music student Claire Marguerite Iverson, a soprano who will perform in “TWA” as a sister in the present-day, working with Chen and Goldfinger has been unforgettable.

“As singers, we can be left wondering what composers like Mozart intended, but seeing an actual person as they try and understand how they want to tell a story is amazing,” she said. “We’ve seen it come to life in front of our eyes.”

Article by Jessica Weis ’05 for the University of Maryland’s Maryland Today.

Review: Mashuq Mushtaq Deen’s FLOOD at KC Rep

KCRep long-awaited debut at Copaken runs through February 19th.

Darren (Matt DeCaro) and Edith (Laura T. Fisher)

Friday night saw the debut at the Copaken theatre of Mashuq Mushtaq Deen‘s Flood, an absurdist tragicomedy making its first appearance on stage courtesy of the KC Rep. This reviewer has always been a fan of absurdist theatre, so it was with considerable excitement that she attended the evening’s performance, eager to see a premiere that has come a mere 3 years after its workshop reading in 2019 (thanks again, covid). Happily, this reviewer can safely say she was not disappointed.

Playwright, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen

Flood takes place in a cozy, midcentury modern apartment on the 19th floor where Darren (Matt DeCaro) and Edith (Laura T. Fisher) live in quiet retirement, a pair of boomer empty-nesters marking time. The names, by the way, are no coincidence: the relentlessly cheery domestic sitcoms of the 50’s and 60’s are an ongoing motif in the play. It is very much the world that the couple has created for themselves: clean, domestic, and isolated from the not-so-niceties of the outside.

During the play, Darren (wearing what one might call his “Father Knows Best” mask) labors away at his “great work”, a baffling construction of toothpicks and glue. Edith, ever the pleasant and patient hausfrau, hovers by his side, waiting for the moment that the work is done, when at last they shall have tea, enjoy their Very Nice View, and all questions will be answered. So far, so Beckett. But the story really takes an extra dimension when the pair’s grown children, Darren Jr. and Edith Jr. (Darrington Clark and Jamie Morrow, respectively) enter the picture. The two children, having moved down to the lower floors of the same building with families of their own, try desperately to raise the alarm: the building is flooding, the water is rising, and they are scared for themselves and their families.

Their protestations are less than successful: the elders, having grown up in a world where such things Do Not Happen, are unable to comprehend what they are being told. Darren Sr., in particular, refuses even to speak directly to them, too wrapped up in his “magnum opus”. But as the waters rise, and the view outside becomes less and less familiar, even they have to eventually reckon with the world.

The production is a clever one, very well staged in a way that lets the world gradually intrude itself into the main characters’ lives. The view outside the windows slowly transitions until there is nothing but blue, blue, blue. The books of unanswerable questions (which Edith has been carefully writing down for the glorious day when the work is done) grow and accumulate around the couple until it seems a wave is about to come crashing down on them. Mr. Deen’s script is witty and skillful, taking us step by step through the story and keeping a good balance of humor and tension. There were no weak spots in the cast, though special mention must be made of Ms. Fisher who ably carries the great bulk of the play.

Overall, Flood is a splendid work, a truly contemporary take on absurdist theatre written with sharp and fresh relevance. It is first and foremost a story of generations: of the ones that were raised in one world and imparted the values of that world to a generation that finds itself in a very different one. Those of the protagonists’ generation will recognize the bafflement of finding themselves in a time where the old rules seemingly no longer apply. To the younger viewers, the frustration of the children trying to make their progenitors understand will no doubt ring all too familiar. And to the very pleasant older lady in the elevator on the way out who loudly asked if anyone could tell her “what all that was about”, the answer, dear lady, is that it is about time that you looked out the goddamn window.

Tickets available HERE at KC Rep, performances through Feb. 19, 2023

Review by Kelly Luck for Broadway World

Silicon Valley TheatreWorks’ ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ Directed by Jeffrey Lo, is a kick in the plants

Audrey II (voiced by Katrina Lauren McGraw, puppeteered by Brandon Leland, puppet by Matthew McAvene Creations) demands food from Seymour (Phil Wong) in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s “Little Shop of Horrors.” (photo: Kevin Berne)

Forget the poinsettias and celebrate this holiday season with an Audrey II. Perennial stage favorite “Little Shop of Horrors” is blooming in the Bay Area for a second time this year (Another production was mounted at the Berkeley Playhouse in the spring) at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley), and for good reason.

With its pop-culture savvy book and lyrics by the late gay writer Howard Ashman, a zippy 1950s pastiche score by Alan Menken and an off-kilter monster movie-meets-“Sesame Street” scenario adapted from Roger Corman’s grindhouse classic, “Little Shop” offers family-friendly entertainment (Let’s say for ages 10 and up) with a full stratum of funny subterranean dirt for adults to dig while the kids remain oblivious.

Chief among the musical’s adult pleasures is the sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, played here to puffed up perfection by Nick Nakashima. Under the wise direction of Jeffrey Lo, he combines the looming but cartoonish physical presence of a parade float with an endlessly elastic repertoire of facial expressions to simultaneously portray and undermine his potentially problematic character. (Orin physically and psychologically abuses shop girl Audrey, played by Sumi Yu, who effectively conveys a growing confidence as the show progresses).

Late in the second act, Nakashima nearly steals the show altogether, unexpectedly popping up in three smaller roles —one of which is female— in rapid succession. But complete larceny is impossible given the wealth of talent on stage here.

In addition to Yu, whose comic sweetness feels entirely natural, Phil Wong turns in a deliciously self-conscious Seymour, keeping you on his side even when his dorkyness turns to darkness; and the Motown Greek chorus of Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal (Lucca Troutman, Alia Hodge and Naima Alakham) aces their giggle-inducing blend of choreographic slinkiness and editorial side-eye.

Audrey (Sumi Yu), Seymour (Phil Wong), and Mr. Mushnik (Lawrence-Michael C. Arias) investigate an unusual plant (puppet by Matthew McAvene Creations) in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s “Little Shop of Horrors.” (photo: Kevin Berne)  

If Ashman and Menken, who also wrote the lyrics and music for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” are role models for teamwork, their standard is lived up to by this production’s puppetry crew. Matthew McAvenue Creations’ design, Brandon Leland’s remarkably expressive manipulation and Katrina Lauren McGraw’s disco diva vocals combine to give Audrey II, the man-eating plant, an alluring vegetal vavoom.

As Mr. Mushnik, Seymour and Audrey’s boss, Lawrence-Michael C. Arias’ turns in another yet another laugh-out-loud performance. He takes a character usually played with the exaggerated shtetl schmaltz of a downtown Tevye and instead pushes the caricature full-on Filipino, complete with thick accent (Think: “Ip I were a rich man!”).

Director Lo’s decision to make this switch from “Oy!” to Pinoy, trading one comic stereotype for another, feels clever given Arias’ background, and inoffensive given the show’s broad brush humor (The character’s name remains Mushnik; Wong’s Chinese-American Seymour’s similarly semitic surname is “Krelborn”).

Unfortunately, in marketing this otherwise top-notch production, Lo and TheatreWorks have effortfully stressed the fact that they’ve set their “Little Shop” in San Francisco’s Chinatown and cast mainly AAPI actors. It’s great to see representation, but other than a bit of set-dressing —a tail-wagging cat clock, a mural of Bruce Lee, Chinese characters on store signage— the shift feels largely irrelevant otherwise.

There’s a little rainbow flag by the cash register and a photo of Harvey Milk (next to a headshot of former SF Giants’ Tim Lincecum) pinned to the flower shop wall; a nice little bit of queer and local representation on stage, yes. But is there any deep meaning? Might Mushnik be growing pansies? I noticed these clever details without a press release extolling their virtues.

“Little Shop” is a smart, silly comedy. TheaterWorks’ noise about its version subtly addressing issues including Chinatown gentrification and domestic violence in the Asian-American community feels overstated and unattractively opportunistic. There’s a theater marketing strategist who deserves a meeting with Audrey II.

‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ through Dec. 24. $30-$100. Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. (877) 662-8978 www.theatreworks.org

Article by Jim Gladstone for The Bay Area Reporter

‘The Wiz’ Aims for Broadway After a U.S. Tour

Schele Williams will direct and JaQuel Knight is choreographing a new production of the show, with additional material by Amber Ruffin. It will start its tour in Baltimore.

From left, Nipsey Russell as Tinman, Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as Scarecrow filming “The Wiz” in 1977. A new production of the musical will have a pre-Broadway national tour next year.

The Tony Award-winning musical “The Wiz” will be landing on Broadway for a limited run in the spring of 2024, after a national tour next year, producers announced on Thursday. The tour will start in Baltimore, where the musical made its original debut.

“The Wiz,” inspired by L. Frank Baum’s children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” had an all-Black cast, and premiered on Broadway in 1975. It netted seven Tonys, including best musical.

For the director of this reimagined “The Wiz,” Schele Williams, the work is personal. “I wouldn’t be on Broadway if it wasn’t for ‘The Wiz,’” Williams said in a statement, adding, “Seeing that show changed my life.”

Williams is a founding member of Black Theater United and serves on the board of trustees for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This will be the first time she has directed a show on Broadway; she previously served as an associate director on the Broadway production of “Motown: The Musical,” and she performed on Broadway in “Aida” and “Rent.”

This version of the musical is choreographed by JaQuel Knight and contains musical arrangements, music supervision and orchestrations by Joseph Joubert. It will also feature additional material by Amber Ruffin, and the original Tony-winning score by Charlie Smalls.

The original show ran for four years and had 1,672 performances on Broadway. In 1978, a film adaptation included stars like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Richard Pryor and Lena Horne.

Article by Khalia Richardson for the New York Times.