Children Will Listen: TYA Shows Get Political

In New Haven, Conn., Collective Consciousness Theatre will tour Stories of a New America to Connecticut school and community venues in spring 2017. Created in partnership with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in 2011, Stories of a New America features excerpts from interviews the company conducted with more than 100 refugees, many from the Middle East, the Congo, and other war-torn regions.

“We wanted to know how they got here and what their journey was,” says Collective Consciousness’s executive artistic director, Dexter J. Singleton. “All of them had to deal with suddenly having their lives uprooted and changed forever. How did they remain so strong in the face of such danger?”

The interview process took longer than a year and a half, and required the help of translators working in more than a dozen languages. “Many of the stories were funny, heartbreaking, joyous, and remarkable,” says Singleton. “We whittled [the interviews] down to the ones we thought best captured the heart of what it means to be a refugee in America. We’re proud of the fact that every single word of the play is from their words. We just shaped it into a clear narrative that all people can relate to.”

The diverse cast features American and refugee actors, and the play includes several different languages. Singleton observes that kids have responded enthusiastically to the play over the years, and emphasizes the value of bringing refugee stories to children.

“I think it’s always important for young people to hear the stories of refugees so that they can learn about the effects of wars and conflicts,” he says. “They can learn empathy and develop a greater understanding of people’s lives that are different from their own. Unfortunately, the play is still timely, as the prejudice and lack of empathy toward refugees in America has gotten worse.”

Read the full article from AMERICAN THEATRE here.  

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen’s Solo, Draw the Circle, Chronicles His Female-to-Male Transition

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen stars in PRC’s world premiere of Draw the Circle (photo by HuthPhoto)

PlayMakers Repertory Company will kick off its 2016-17 season on Aug. 24-28 with the world premiere of DRAW THE CIRCLE, an autobiographical one-man show about his female-to-male transition written and performed by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen and directed by Chay Yew. There will be a freewheeling talkback with the artists and selected subject-matter experts, following each performance of this provocative PRC2 production in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art.

On his website, Deen describes this intensely personal yet universal play as “The hilarious and deeply moving story of conservative Muslim mother at her wits’ end, a Muslim father who likes to tell jokes, and a queer American woman trying to make a good impression on her Indian in-laws. In a story about family and love and the things we do to be together, one immigrant family must come to terms with a child who defies their most basic expectations of what it means to have a daughter … and one woman will redefine the limits of unconditional love.”

“The story is autobiographical, so in a way, the story conceived me,” claims Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. “People ask, When did you ‘transition’?, as if it’s a point in time. It was more than a decade in the making — years of resisting, coming to terms, resisting again.”

He adds, “I finally decided to write about it, because I thought the story could do some good in the world, could help other people feel less alone than I felt. But when I began the telling, I realized I wasn’t as interested in my own journey, I had already lived through it. The exploration I could sustain — and writing for me is both exploration and a lengthy commitment, as plays can take years — was the journey of the other characters, those who loved me and didn’t want me to change. And certainly, writing the play also helped me to understand my family in a different way.

“While I was writing [Draw the Circle], I did a lot of research on solo shows,” Deen recalls. “I was most inspired by my friend and colleague Jessica Dickey’s piece, The Amish Project [– which is] a brilliant piece of theater, if you ever get to see it[.] In that play, she portrays all the characters around the Amish community; and through that negative space, if you will, the audience gets a much more complicated version of the heart and soul of this Amish community.

^Taken from Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s Review of DRAW THE CIRCLE, read the full review here.

Learn more about DRAW THE CIRCLE, here.

Theater Review: Engaging ‘Relativity’ at FST gazes into Einstein’s world

Relativity 2
Ginger Lee McDermott, left, plays a reporter interviewing Albert Einstein, played by Robert Zukerman in the world premiere of “Relativity” by Mark St. Germain at Florida Studio Theatre. PHOTO PROVIDED BY FST

Mark St. Germain tackles a lot of thought-provoking and entertaining ideas in the stimulating world premiere of “Relativity” at Florida Studio Theatre, which commissioned this play about the public and private sides of Albert Einstein.

He contrasts Einstein the brilliant physicist against the private man who was so focused on his research that he detached himself from his family and the world (except for publicity purposes). He is presented as the stereotypical absent-minded professor, who may have discovered the theory of relativity but can’t remember his home address.

More importantly, it offers a sometimes fascinating (occasionally overstuffed) debate about whether you can be a great man without being a good man. You might do important things that help advance our understanding of the universe , but is it meaningless without a sense of humanity, love and compassion for those closest to you?

These are weighty issues for an 80-minute play without intermission, but St. Germain builds on them with both seriousness and a good amount of humor to make them relatable (aside from a brief discussion about some scientific theories that lost me).

Robert Zukerman as Albert Einstein in the world premiere of Mark St. Germain's play "Relativity" at Florida Studio Theatre. PHOTO PROVIDED BY FST

Robert Zukerman as Albert Einstein in the world premiere of Mark St. Germain’s play “Relativity” at Florida Studio Theatre. PHOTO PROVIDED BY FST

All these ideas emerge from the play’s focus on Einstein’s personal life and what may have happened to the daughter, Leiserl, he had with his first wife, Mileva, before they were married. Apparently, there was no mention of the girl after she was about 2 years old. Did she die of scarlet fever? Was she given away by a family friend because the young couple couldn’t afford to raise her? Could she be the woman now interviewing him for a newspaper article for the Jewish Daily in his Princeton University office in 1948?

There has been speculation about what happened to Leiserl, and St. Germain offers his own possibilities about the woman she might have become, the events in her life and how they keep tying back to her famous father. The questions begin as Margaret Harding interviews him in a personal way about his two sons (from whom he is estranged), an old family friend and about Mileva. She wants to know what happened to Leiserl….

While there are a few exchanges that sound a bit formal compared to the rest, the play zips along and leaves you with plenty to think and talk about and perhaps eager to look anew at the life and work of Einstein.

Read the full article from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune here.

St. Germain’s ‘Relativity’ has world premiere in Sarasota

Relativity by Matthew Holler_8
Ginger Lee McDermott and Robert Zukerman star in “Relativity” at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota.

It’s a little-known aspect of one the most well-known lives of the 20th century.

In 1987, letters between Albert Einstein and his first wife, Mileva, were discovered. The letters indicated that the couple had a daughter, born in 1902, the year before they were married. The daughter’s name was Lieserl, and there is virtually nothing known about her other than a couple of references in letters from 1903.

“No one knows what happened to her,” playwright Mark St. Germain said…

The FST director and cast have helped form the play, St. Germain said. In fact, the script wasn’t “frozen” — which essentially means finished, at least for this production — until Monday.

“I’m very pleased,” said St. Germain, who came to Sarasota from his home in Woodstock, N.Y., for this staging. “Jason Cannon is doing a great job as a director. We have actors who have helped shape the play. They’re intelligent and they’re thoughtful. This is one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with.”

Details: June 23-July 2, Keating Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave, Sarasota. $25-$39. 941-366-9000,
Read more of the article from the Bradenton Herald here.

Primary Stages Season to Include Adaptation of Rankine’s ‘Citizen’

A new adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s poetry collection “Citizen” will headline the Primary Stages 2016-7 season. Ms. Rankine has updated her best-selling work for the stage along with Stephen Sachs, and the production will arrive next January.

“Citizen” is a genre-crossing meditation on race in America, covering subjects from Trayvon Martin to Serena Williams. The book won the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry and was first adapted for the stage by Mr. Sachs at the Fountain Theater in Los Angeles last year.

Read the full article from The New York Times here.