Results tagged “interact theatre” from Drama Queen

This Chicago Tribune story about President Obama's pattern of personal involvement with the arts is enough to warm the hearts of every economically-stressed, museum-going, dance-loving, theater-attending American. I don't know if it means Quincy Jones will finally get his cabinet-level Secretary for the Arts, but at the very least our fearless leader seems like someone who just might consider the idea.

InteractTheater300_U.jpg
So maybe Mr. Jones should also consider getting Gamble and Huff on board--after all, if you read about two-thirds of the way down the Tribune's article, you'll notice that our president went far out of his way to see a play that had its world premiere in Philadelphia, was written by a Philadelphian, and is all about Philadelphia issues:

"In 2005, Michelle and Barack Obama journeyed to the Chicago suburb of Skokie for the Northlight Theatre production of the Thomas Gibbons drama "Permanent Collection." The play, based on the real-life, art-and-race controversy at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia starred the actor Harry J. Lennix, a friend of the Obamas."

The Lennix connection is purely incidental, I'm sure.

(At left: Tim Moyer and Frank X in InterAct Theatre's original production of Permanent Collection.)
March 1, 2009 4:36 PM | | Comments (0)
let-my-people-come-lp-ad.jpgThis week I'm macking on: Philadelphia as a center for new play production. I wrote this article, which appeared in Thursday's Inquirer, about PlayPenn, a new play development workshop that's had an incredible track record with its accepted works. All six plays from the 2007 workshop have been chosen to grace professional stages around the country in 2008-09, and three of those stages are right here in my backyard. Seth Rozin, artistic director of InterAct Theatre, a member of the National New Play Network, and always a champion of new and provocative work, is also revving the engines for a new play initiative (tentatively called, ahem, the Philadelphia New Play Initiative) that will attempt to connect playwrights with producers. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say the scene right now is as full and well-rounded as I've ever seen it, and this concerted effort to seal the leaks by cementing playwriting into our foundation is both well-placed and well-timed. People seem to be sticking around, new, small, quality companies are cropping up all the time, and just as exciting, the companies who have been here all along are still producing, and producing some compelling stuff. It's been a long road, and one that led PlayPenn's Paul Meshijian and me to chuckle about the days when the only thing playing in town was an extended engagement of  the Oh! Calcutta! knockoff Let My People Come. Good times.

This week I'm hating on: Uncertainty. So you know how I just mentioned Seth Rozin and new plays? Well okay, I saw one of those new plays this week, Andrew Case's The Rant, and reviewed it here. But the thing is, my companion, a man whose opinion and analysis I trust deeply (And not just because he's my husband. Actually, in spite of that fact.) had a completely different reaction to the production than I did. This is also the first time, after many, many years of playgoing, we've diverged so sharply in our opinions of a show. 

The thing is, my analysis gets the public platform, while his sits there burning a hole in my inbox. So here's what he e-mailed back after reading the rough draft of my review:

I don't agree but I think you're fair.  The point I took away from the play is that everyone has a rant (a "beef") that's fueled by their perspective, motives and personal history, and this makes it impossible to judge the truth based solely on what people say.  So, I think Seth is successful in encouraging discussion.  By the way, it's a crime you're given so little space.

He's pretty good, isn't he? And we agree on that last point, anyway. 

Needless to say, the whole encounter really threw my sense of critical judgment into a tailspin. Did I somehow miss the point? Could it be possible that our opposing views are equally valid in a situation like this, political theater being polarizing by definition? Ultimately, I decided we're probably in agreement about the production's content, just disagreeing about its execution. 

However, if something larger can come of all this navel gazing, it's this: with reviewers being laid off en masse, having a forum in which to turn what was once a static, printed review into a living, breathing, mutating organism might just be the path to our salvation. If print media would commit to making an effort at integrating the cultural conversation into their online content, people like me wouldn't be stuck out here on our own, blogging gratis, and driving traffic away from what rightfully belongs to them. Or at least it once did. Before they gave it away.

January 29, 2009 8:30 PM | | Comments (4)
My most recent review, Delaware Theatre Company's Master Harold... And the Boys, got me thinking. It seems like there's a burst of African-American issues-related shows in Philly this season--Driving Miss Daisy, Gee's Bend (which, if anyone cares, I thought had a really clunky script but some excellent acting by Kala Moses Baxter and one of my new favorites on the scene, Kes Khemnu), Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, Resurrection, Day of the Picnic--just about every major theater has one show in its season with this theme.*

I suppose part of the reason for the change is that everyone's capitalizing on the election, but really, it started with a recent thrust of nontraditional casting before Obama became the clear presidential candidate and has just sort of snowballed. And while this mass shift in programming focus is certainly long overdue and welcome, well, it begs the real question: why can't Philadelphia, a city whose population is 45% African American, support a dedicated professional African American theater? Since Walter Dallas' departure and Freedom Repertory Theatre's demise (and that's a whole 'nother long story) no one has stepped in to fill the void, and I'm going to guess it's not because Philadelphians are okay with leaving the issue of inclusion to the whims of the city's various white artistic directors, or catching the random touring urban theater production. 

Mind you, I'm not knocking the efforts at diversity being made by any of these other companies. I think it's great for the city and even better for expanding everyone's audience base. But honestly, what is going on here, and why? 


*By the way Philly folks, I'm omitting InterAct from inclusion and discussion on this post, as their commitment to programming diversity has been part of their mission since the company's inception.


October 23, 2008 10:51 AM | | Comments (5)
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.