Which Spirit Is Moving Her, Exactly?

Over at TDF Stages I wrote about Little Children Dream of God, an enchanting, funny, and voodoo-infused new drama from Jeff Augustin. I was lucky enough to chat with Augustin and director Giovanna Sardelli about how they evoked Haitian magic in Roundabout’s underground black box theater. See the show!

Little Children Dream of God

A scene from ‘Little Children Dream of God’

Some demons are imaginary and some of them are real, and during a climactic moment in Little Children Dream of God, they all engulf the stage.

Jeff Augustin’s play, now in Roundabout’s Underground series, follows a Haitian immigrant named Sula, who has floated to Miami on a car tire in search of a better life. Eventually, though, her past catches up with her, which leads to an explosion of voodoo power: Frantic drums tear through the speakers; dazzling light fills the tiny black box stage; and actress Carra Patterson stamps her feet and waves her hands, controlled by something guttural and fierce.

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Your Holiday Gift Guide: Theatre Books

‘Tis the season for gift giving! Not sure what to get your theater geek cousin? Your therapist? That boy you’ve been sort of seeing who says he likes your smile but refuses to have a “check-in” conversation and now you’re just sort of wading through a gray area relationship-wise? Fear no more! Over at TDF Stages, I wrote up a list of 12 theater-related books for the 12 days of Christmas/the postmodern holiday pastiche we’ve been lazily referring to as “Christmas.” It also doubles as my wish list. FYI. Happy Holidays!

Theatre Books

Your Holiday Gift Guide: Theatre Books

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Turning an Elevator into an Entire World

Check out my TDF Stages article on Lift, a full-length play over at 59E59 that takes place entirely in an elevator! You might even feel uplifted reading it!!

LIFT

The cast of Walter Mosley’s “Lift”

Two days into rehearsals for Lift at 59E59, director John Marshall III got stuck in an elevator. Most people entombed in a metal box might feel alarmed, claustrophobic, or at the very least, concerned. Instead, Marshall was thrilled. “I think the people running the building probably thought I was crazy,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Don’t hurry, it’s ok! It’s great!’”

See, Lift is a full-length play by Walter Mosley in which a man and a woman are trapped in a broken elevator. This means two actors are confined to the same square of space for almost two hours: a challenge for any theatre director. “The elevator was essentially a third character in the play,” says Marshall, who last year mounted a production of the show at New Jersey’s Crossroads Theatre, where he serves as artistic director. Unable to rehearse on the set during its construction, actors stood on platforms and cubes, using any and every opportunity to simulate the feeling of entrapment. That’s why Marshall was so excited to have firsthand experience. “I was texting the actors,” he says of his elevator mishap. “I was on the bottom floor, and it wasn’t rocking. I don’t know if my confidence would’ve been quite the same if I had been twenty floors up in the air. But I was really having fun.”

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What are your favorite “guilty pleasure” shows?

Here’s a crazy idea. What if theater journalists wrote about shows the same way TV recappers chat, or the way friends talk about their favorite art? TDF Stages is launching what I believe to be an innovative approach to theater writing, with more informal, buzzy coverage and an attitude of unabashed enthusiasm. Check out the latest installment of the new Geek Out/Freak Out, in which I geek out about “guilty pleasures” with none other than Nate Silver, up-and-coming director extraordinaire. Don’t be afraid to share the article, and join the fun!

Bring It On

Bring It On: The Musical

 

Welcome to Geek Out/Freak Out, where theatre fans get super enthusiastic about things.

This week, Stages contributor Jack Smart geeks out (via Google doc) with Nate Silver, Managing Director of Chicago’s Jackalope Theatre and assistant director of the upcoming Broadway production of Disgraced, which previously played at Lincoln Center.

Today’s Topic: What are your favorite “guilty pleasure” shows… and what constitutes a “guilty pleasure” anyway?

Jack Smart: Well hello there, Nate. You and I have managed to see a lot of theatre together despite the fact that I’m in New York and you live in Chicago. I feel like we tend to see the kind of theatre some audience members might have a hard time publicly admitting they like. I think everyone has their tastes and preferences, but some shows are generally deemed “classy,” while others must be enjoyed secretly. What do you think? How low under the bar of lowbrow culture are we “allowed” to limbo? Is there something shameful about sitting gleefully among dozens of tweens in princess dresses at the very first preview of Cinderella? That was us, after all.

Nate Silver: For me, going to the theatre means different things at different times—to satisfy different cravings for different moods. In the same way that I am equally engaged by Mad Men and Modern Family, there’s a place for both Bring It On: The Musical and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Sure, there’s the idea of hate-watching (see Smash), but I inherently trust the theatre more than television. If something makes it all the way to Broadway—if it has financial backers, critical interest, a top-notch production team, actors at the top of their game—I’m going to see it.Bring It On was a surprise high point for me. I’ve never seen that brand of athleticism onstage. I had a similar experience at Rocky: I’ve never seen a set move in the way that one did. Was I truly moved by either of those musicals? No, not really. Was I actually, legitimately, not faking it, shamelessly entertained? You bet. Sometimes that’s all I’m looking for.

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Muslims, Shakespeare, and Marriage

I recently had the great privilege of interviewing Ayad Akhtar, who won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Disgraced at LCT3 (it just announced a Broadway run!). He is a superb playwright and thinker and if you have the chance to see The Who and the What, you should! Read the piece over at fabulous-as-ever TDF Stages.

The Who and the What

Bernard White & Nadine Malouf in ‘The Who and the What’

Inside the new play from Pulitzer winner Ayad Akhtar



Ayad Akhtar got the idea for his new play in the back of a taxi cab. An advertisement for Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, flashed on the backseat TV screen, and it got him thinking.

“I sort of wondered to myself, ‘What is the obsession with The Taming of the Shrew that folks have?’” he recalls. “The gender politics in that play don’t really speak to the contemporary gender politics at work in the culture.”

But then he realized there is indeed a culture in which extremely conservative ideas about men and women still resonate: Islam. “I recognized an old world attitude toward gender politics, with a very clearly defined masculine, a very clearly defined feminine, and the dramatic conflict that inherently arises from that power struggle,” Akhtar says.

Drawing from his Pakistani-American upbringing, he places this dramatic tension at the center of The Who and the What, a dark comedy directed by Kimberly Senior that’s now playing in Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 series.

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Did This Play Predict the Future?

The following article appeared today in TDF Stages, the online magazine of the Theatre Development Fund you should be checking regularly. You can read it there or below!

John Noble

John Noble

20 years later, Jon Robin Baitz’s The Substance of Fire seems eerily prescient about America

When Jon Robin Baitz sat down in 1991 to write a play about the demise of books and printing, he likely had no idea just how prescient he was. In 2014, however, The Substance of Fire seems remarkably accurate.

Second Stage’s current revival of Baitz’s drama, which charts the personal and professional earthquakes rocking a family-owned publishing company, reminds us how much we’ve changed. “When this play was first produced, the world was a very different place,” says Trip Cullman, who’s directing the revival. “The first act foretells the death of the written word as an art form in our society, and I feel like now, in 2014, we are already there. Because it’s set in 1991, this story feels like a warning, and now we have seen all the anxieties of the play bear out as truths. It feels like a relic of an era that very much influences our era.”

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