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.
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.)
This 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:
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.