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The Silver Spring institution was recognized by the American Theatre Wing. By Tanya Pai

Big news for one local theater: Silver Spring’s Forum Theatre has received one of the American Theatre Wing’s 2014 national grants. Forum announced Thursday that it is among 12 US theaters to be recognized this year by the American Theatre Wing, best known as the creator of the Tony Awards, a.k.a. the Oscars of the stage. 

The New York nonprofit—which began as the Stage Women’s War Relief in 1917—every year awards at least ten companies from around the United States who “ have articulated a distinctive mission, cultivated an audience, and nurtured a community of artists in ways that strengthen and demonstrate the quality, diversity, and dynamism of American theatre.” 

Forum was founded in 2003 with the goal, as explained on its website, of helping“eliminate barriers to an inclusive audience. We want to make sure that Forum is a theatre for low income individuals, students, regular and hard-core theatre go-ers, and audience members from a variety of background and all walks of life.” To make that happen, the theater last year began offering pay-what-you-can tickets for all its performances. 

“The recognition from the American Theatre Wing is a tremendous honor,” Forum artistic director Michael Dove says in a press release. “We are very proud of . . . the work we do in facilitating community discussions around our plays.”

Each theater recognized receives $10,000 for “general operating support.” 

See the rest of 2014 grant recipients below. 

Amphibian Stage Productions (Fort Worth, TX)
Ars Nova (New York, NY)
Keen Company (New York, NY)
PlayGround (San Francisco, CA)
Red Bull Theater (New York, NY)
Rogue Machine Theatre (Los Angeles, CA)
The House Theatre of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The TEAM (New York, NY)
Theater Wit (Chicago, IL)
Theatre B (Fargo, ND)
Williamston Theatre (Williamston, MI)

Posted at 03:30 PM/ET, 09/18/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The show closes at National Harbor this Sunday. By Tanya Pai
Photograph courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.

The last day of summer is quickly approaching, and with it comes the end of Cirque du Soleil’s Washington run. The new touring production Amaluna closes Sunday, September 21, and for Cirque fans it’s well worth the trip to National Harbor—both because the show is highly entertaining, and because it’s the company’s first to feature a majority female cast and an all-female band. 

Created by Diane Paulus, the Tony Award-winning director of Pippin and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, the work is set on a mystical island ruled by goddesses, whose tranquil environment is shaken up by the arrival of a crew of shipwrecked male sailors. The story borrows some elements from Shakespeare’s The Tempest—the main character is Prospera, who supervises her daughter Miranda’s coming of age and romance with one of the sailors, Romeo; and the mischievous Caliban becomes Calli, a human-lizard hybrid whose love for Miranda drives him to wicked acts. But the story takes a back seat to Cirque’s usual highlights: elaborate costumes (by Mérédith Caron), original music, and awe-inspiring feats of physicality. 

Read More

Posted at 02:35 PM/ET, 09/15/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The new show has its world premiere at Gallaudet University next month. By Hallie Golden
Eight cast members from Visible Language make the sign for “I love you” at the statue of Thomas Gallaudet on the Gallaudet University campus. Photograph courtesy of WSC Avant Bard.

In Mary Resing’s musical, Visible Language, when a deaf character makes a joke about learning to “curse out” his roommate, it’s likely not everyone in the audience will be laughing. Not because it isn’t funny, but because the line will only be presented in American Sign Language (ASL).

Visible Language, set to have its world premiere at Gallaudet University’s Eastman Studio Theatre on October 21, is the culmination of an idea Resing had five years ago to create a new kind of bilingual production. She had seen plenty of plays involving both deaf and hearing actors that opted for a simple, linear translation between ASL and English. This work, on the other hand, features “two slightly different storylines—one that the deaf audience will get, and one that the hearing audience will get,” she says. The aforementioned joke made by the deaf character will only be understood by the audience members versed in ASL; at other points in the play, the reverse will be true, so that when a hearing character speaks, the lines will not be interpreted into ASL. 

“The idea was that very often in our culture, deaf people are left out of a joke when hearing people talk around them. In this case the roles were reversed,” says the show’s director, WSC Avant Bard’s Tom Prewitt. (The show is a co-production between the company and the university’s theater and dance program.) When there is interpretation, Resing wanted it to be for a reason that relates to the storyline. The result is a play that is not only a unique take on bilingual theater, but that also lets hearing audiences experience the kind of language barrier the deaf community deals with regularly from living among the hearing. 

The play, which commemorates Avant Bard’s 25th anniversary as well as the university’s 150th, includes a host of notable historical figures from the 1890s, such as university founder Edward Miner Gallaudet, Alexander Graham Bell, and Helen Keller. The plot addresses issues within the deaf community that are still relevant today, like the debate between Bell—who believed the deaf should assimilate into the hearing community through learning to lip-read and speak—and Gallaudet, who believed sign language was the best way for deaf people to attain maximum understanding when communicating and learning.

The audition process for the show took about two weeks. Candidates were evaluated on their acting and singing abilities, and hearing actors had to demonstrate their signing prowess. Since the vast majority of the characters sign, familiarity with ASL was a crucial factor in casting, though Prewitt says actors who had zero ASL experience were still considered for smaller parts, depending on how quickly they picked up signs during tryouts. 

During one particular audition, two actors had made it smoothly through the monologue and song portion, and then were given the challenge of learning signed lines in a scene between Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. After 15 minutes of working with the deaf members of the show’s artistic team, along with interpreters, the two women were asked to perform the scene in ASL while exploring the emotional depth of the characters. Though both women had very little experience with sign language, they were able to make it through the scene with only a few hiccups, and got a sample of the challenges awaiting them if cast.

Rehearsals begin this week and will be held about six days a week for three to four hours a day. The process will not be an easy one, given how many elements must be incorporated. Along with singing, dancing, and acting, hearing actors will have rigorous training in ASL. 

Then there’s the challenge of translating the lines in the first place, as the “structure of ASL is very different from the structure of English,” says Ethan Sinnott, co-producer and set designer of Visible Language. (An example: The sentence “I am going to school” in English becomes “School, I am going” in ASL, because the subject or verb moves to the beginning of the sentence.) Not to mention that ASL, like all languages, has evolved over the years, and since this production is a period piece, its artistic team has to translate the English lines into ASL that would have been used before the 1900s. 

Despite all these wrinkles, Prewitt is excited to create a cohesive performance that he says will speak, in different ways, to all audience members. So while the first joke might go over your head, you won’t be left out for long.

Find more information about Visible Language on WSC Avant Bard’s website

Posted at 02:50 PM/ET, 09/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
She’ll play the title role in the musical “Gigi.” By Tanya Pai
See Vanessa Hudgens onstage at the Kennedy Center next year. Image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.

Love Broadway musicals? How about the Disney flick High School Musical? Lucky you: Next year the two collide when Vanessa Hudgens, the female lead in the film that brought Zac Efron to the masses, stars in Gigi, having its pre-Broadway at the Kennedy Center in January. 

The KenCen production is a reimagining of the story, which is based on a 1941 novella and has been adapted twice for the stage—a 1951 version starring Audrey Hepburn, and a brief Broadway run in 1973. There was also a 1958 movie version starring Leslie Caron, which picked up nine Academy Awards. Heidi Thomas’s new adaptation features songs from the movie that were cut from the stage version, as well as several added to the score for the ’70s version. 

“We absolutely fell in love with Vanessa, and we know audiences will, too,” said the show’s producer, Jenna Segal, in a press release. “She has a huge worldwide following, and it’s easy to understand why, once you see her on stage.”

Gigi is at the Kennedy Center January 16 through February 12, after which it heads to Broadway. Tickets go on sale October 1 at 10 AM through the Kennedy Center's website. 

Posted at 02:50 PM/ET, 09/10/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
See a graphic novel come to life, the world-premiere comedy The Shoplifters, and much more. By Tanya Pai
Driving Miss Daisy is at Ford's Theatre beginning September 26. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

OPENING THIS MONTH

Shakespeare Theatre Company hosts the Isango Ensemble, a South African troupe, for its take on the Bard’s epic poem Venus and Adonis, performed in three African languages as well as English and incorporating traditional music and dance. September 13 through 20 in the Lansburgh Theatre. 

At Artisphere September 20 and 21 is The Intergalactic Nemesis: Robot Planet Rising, a “live-action graphic novel.” The production involves projecting more than 1,250 comic-book panels on a large screen as three actors play the few dozen characters, a Foley artist provides sound effects, and a pianist accompanies the action. 

Ford’s Theatre presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning Driving Miss Daisy, which explores the friendship between an elderly white Southern woman and her black chauffeur. Nancy Robinette and Craig Wallace star. September 26 through October 26. 

Starting September 3 is Colossal, Andrew Hinderaker’s story of a college football player paralyzed from the waist down in a game accident who must come to terms with his new reality with the help of his football squad. The play is structured like a football match, with four quarters and a halftime show. Tim Riggins will unfortunately not be making an appearance. Through September 28 at Olney Theatre

At 1st Stage September 12 through October 11 is Take Me Out, a comedy about a charismatic, all-American baseball star whose reveal of his sexual orientation sends ripples throughout the country. 

Awake and Sing!, Clifford Odets’s 1935 drama, centers on a Jewish family trying to maintain their bond while keeping themselves afloat in the Depression-era Bronx. September 24 through October 19 at Olney Theatre

To mark its upcoming tenth anniversary, Taffety Punk stages a revised version of its first production, The Devil in His Own Words, which weaves together depictions of the devil in literature over several centuries. September 12 through October 4. 

September 20 through October 11 at American Century Theater is The Seven-Year Itch, the story of a languid New York summer immortalized by Marilyn Monroe and a strategically placed subway grate. 

Round House Theatre producing artistic director Ryan Rilette directs Fool for Love, Sam Shepard’s tale of love, hate, and betrayal in the Old West. September 3 through 27. 

Theater Alliance presents Spark, a world premiere by Caridad Svich about three sisters in the United States attempting to maintain their family ties and their livelihoods in the aftermath of a contemporary war. September 4 through 28. 

Belleville, by Amy Herzog (4000 Miles), is the story of Abby and Zack, an outwardly perfect couple whose balance is thrown off when Abby discovers some seemingly inconsequential facts about her partner. September 3 through October 12 at Studio Theatre

Woolly Mammoth’s Marie Antoinette, directed by Yury Urnov, looks at the French queen through a present-day lens, considering the modern obsessions with celebrity, politics, and image. September 15 through October 12. 

September 17 through November 2 at MetroStage is Three Sistahs, a musical based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters, featuring gospel, R&B, funk, and folk music by William Hubbard. 

Shakespeare's Globe presents King Lear, starring Joseph Marcell—a.k.a. Geoffrey the butler from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—as the ill-fated king who divides his estate among his three daughters, to disastrous results. September 5 through 21 at Folger Theatre

Morris Panych’s world-premiere comedy The Shoplifters centers on a battle of wills between Alma, a senior citizen who’s gotten quite used to five-finger discounts, and the rookie security guard who catches her in the act. September 5 through October 19 at Arena Stage. arenastage.org.

Dog and Pony DC puts on Toast, a “participatory-performance-meets-science-fair” that looks at developments in technology and their impact on society. September 11 through October 18 at seven venues around Washington; see the website for full details. 

E.B. White’s beloved children’s book Stuart Little, about an adventurous mouse born to human parents, gets an adaptation by Joseph Robinette at Adventure Theatre. September 19 through October 26.

The touring production of the Broadway revival of Evita comes to the Kennedy Center September 30 through October 19, starring Caroline Bowman as Argentina’s First Lady. 

ONGOING/LAST CHANCE

Dirty Dancing closes September 14 at National Theatre

Gidion’s Knot plays at Herndon’s NextStop Theatre through September 14. Read our review

Scena Theater’s Molly and Shining City close September 21 at Atlas Arts Center. Read our review of Molly

Rorschach Theatre’s She Kills Monsters closes at Atlas Arts Center on September 14. 

Sunday in the Park With George closes September 21 at Signature Theatre

Posted at 12:30 PM/ET, 09/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Dirty Dancing, Shakespeare Theatre’s Free for All, and the start of Signature’s 25th-anniversary season. By Tanya Pai
Josef Brown, Amanda Leigh Cobb, and Britta Lazenga in Dirty Dancing at the National Theatre. Photograph by David Scheinmann.

OPENING THIS MONTH

Signature Theatre kicks off its 25th-anniversary season with Sunday in the Park With George, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Pulitzer-winning 1984 musical that takes its inspiration from a painting by Georges Surat. August 5 through September 21. 

Landless Theatre Company stages a progressive-metal twist on Sweeney Todd, Stephen Sondheim’s musical about a murderous barber. August 7 through 31 at Warehouse Theater.

At Anacostia Arts Center, the Pallas Theatre Collective presents a musical adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 story The Fall of the House of Usher. Tracey Elaine Chessum directs. August 13 through 31. 

In She Kills Monsters, presented by Rorschach Theatre, a teen creates a fantasy world to escape reality; after her death, her sister explores that world and must learn to control the creatures there. August 15 through September 14 at Atlas Performing Arts Center

Shakespeare Theatre’s Free for All presents The Winter’s Tale, the Bard’s comedy about a jealous king and the daughter he exiled. This is a remounting of director Rebecca Taichman’s 2013 production, which Washingtonian’s Sophie Gilbert called “transcendent.” August 19 through 31. 

Scena Theatre presents two works by Irish playwrights at Atlas Performing Arts Center this month. First is Shining City, Conor McPherson’s drama about a Dublin man who, haunted by visions of his dead wife, turns to a therapist who has her own problems. The play runs August 16 through September 21. And in the world premiere of the one-woman show Molly, by George O’Brien, Danielle Davy portrays the mistress of famed Irish playwright J.M. Synge. August 23 through September 21. 

Dirty Dancing, the 1987 Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey movie, comes to life at the National Theatre in this stage adaptation that features all the songs made famous by the film’s soundtrack, and presumably Baby refusing to stand in corners. August 26 through September 14. 

Theater J stages Yentl, an adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s story “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy,” which examines issues of gender equality and sexuality. This production—not to be confused with the Barbra Streisand movie musical—features new songs by Jill Sobule. August 28 through October 5. 

ONGOING/LAST CHANCE

Binge, Washington Improv Theater’s five-week show performed by its six ensembles, continues through August 9 at Source Theatre

The BFG closes August 10 at Imagination Stage

An Evening With Danny Kaye closes August 16 at American Century Theater

The Campsite Rule is at Anacostia Playhouse through August 16. Read our review

Stupid F**king Bird closes August 17 at Woolly MammothRead our review

The Lion King closes August 17 at the Kennedy Center. Read our review

Gidion’s Knot is at Herndon’s NextStop Theatre August 28 through September 14, in a co-production with Forum Theatre. Read our review


Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 01:52 PM/ET, 08/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Highlights in comedy, dance, and more. By Tanya Pai
Loren Bray and Josh Adams star in R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match at Capital Fringe. Photograph via capitalfringe.org.

The annual quirk-fest that is the Capital Fringe Festival runs Thursday, July 10, through the 27th, offering around 140 works of theater, music, dance, and other performances. This year’s festival—the last to hold shows in Capital Fringe’s Fort Fringe before it moves to new digs—also features, for the first time, five site-specific works. We combed through the list of shows for some highlights; read on for a mostly unscientific sampling of the works we found intriguing. For the full list of shows, visit capitalfringe.org.

COMEDY

Homeboy Thanksgiving 
July 11, 19, 25, and 26 at Fort Fringe
The odd combo of a parolee, a rival ex-gang member, and an online gamer have to surmount their differences and make Thanksgiving dinner together. I enjoy mishmashed-family holiday stories almost as much as I enjoy saying the word “homeboy.” 

Brick Penguin Tries Its Best 
July 11, 12, 16, 18, 19, 23, 25, and 26 at the Fridge
The sketch comedy group collects some of its top sketches from the past four years for this new show. Laughs are guaranteed. 

The Inaugural Election for President of Mrs. Jacobson’s Sixth Grade Class 
July 12, 15, 19, 20, and 26 at Atlas Performing Arts Center
An interactive show lets you decide which of six sixth-graders should become class president, and gives politics-obsessed Washingtonians the chance to see the absurdities of modern elections the way kids do. 

Size Doesn’t Matter! Seven Shorts by DC Playwrights
July 12, 13, 16, 19, and 26 at Atlas Performing Arts Center
Local playwrights Mari Baldessari, Renee Calarco, Zachary Fernebok, and John Morogiello present a collection of seven unrelated works. 

What Would Tina and Amy Do?
July 11, 13, 16, 17, and 19 at Fort Fringe
Two recent college grads try to find their place in the world with the help of advice from everyone’s favorite superstar BFFs Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. 

Call Steve Guttenberg
July 12, 18, 20, 22, and 25 at Fort Fringe
Danny Pushkin’s work promises “Lovecraftian gothic horror, ancient artifacts mistaken for paraphernalia,” and maybe even some ’80s references—what’s not to love? 

Districtland
July 11, 13, 16, 19, 23, and 27 at Fort Fringe
Perhaps the most relatable work of the festival, this play based on true anecdotes satirizes the terrors and frustrations of trying to start a career in DC. 


DANCE

#Albatross 
July 11, 13, 19, 22, and 25 at Atlas Performing Arts Center
What do you get when you combine ballet, electric guitar, Twitter, and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? I have no idea, actually, but it certainly sounds interesting. 

“Installment 1: Relax(h)er”
July 19 at Jet Set Hair Designs and Plush Beauty Box
As part of the festival’s site-specific series, dancer and choreographer Jasmine Hearn explores her memories and personal experiences centered on hair, in the first installment of a four-part series called That’s What She Said

Everybody Knows This Is Now Here
July 10, 12, 13, 15, and 17 at Goethe-Institut
This multimedia piece by Eliza Larson and Rachel Rugh examines friendship and connection in the digital age. Fittingly, the show was developed largely through Skype. 

Intrigue, A Mystery on Marley…
July 11, 18, 19, 22, and 27 at Atlas Performing Arts Center
Clue fans will enjoy this noirish physical-theater whodunit, conceived by DraMAStic Dance Works artistic director Mary A. Stiegelbauer. 

The Old Man Never Let It Go
July 10, 13, 18, 23, and 26 at Atlas Performing Arts Center
Relive your high school English class with this wordless adaptation of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, written and directed by Hector J. Reynoso and composed by Synetic Theater’s Koki Lortkipanidze.


DRAMA

Chesapeake by Lee Blessing
July 10, 13, 19, 23, and 26 at Fort Fringe
This work from the playwright behind A Walk in the Woods is a magical realist tale about a Southern politician, a performance artist, and a dog named Lucky. 

Bethesda 
July 12, 17, 22, 23, and 26 at Goethe-Institut
One to appeal to Washington’s scandal-loving side: When a disgraced diplomat returns to DC, he must deal with the impact his actions have had on his wife and kids. 

Contrafact of Freedom
July 15, 16, 17, 19, and 20 at Atlas Performing Arts Center
Learn about the man behind “The Star-Spangled Banner” (which has its bicentennial this year), in this work by Alex Pappas. 

Interrogation 
July 10, 12, 14, 18, 20, 24, and 26 at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church
John Feffer, who was behind 2012’s Fringe hit The Pundit and last year’s The Politician, returns with this dark comedy about surveillance and interrogation. 

R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match
July 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, and 26 at DC Reynolds
An audience-involving take on Romeo and Juliet set in a bar and featuring rap battles and flip cup—like your usual weekend night, except with more iambic pentameter. 

Ten Principles
July 12, 18, 19, 23, and 26 at Fort Fringe
Ten people from the Washington area share their experiences at Burning Man, based on founder Larry Harvey’s “ten principles.” 

The Fever
July 22, 23, 24, and 25 at Goethe-Institut
This drama, written by Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), stars Patrick O’Brien as a well-off traveler who has a crisis of conscience while suffering from a mysterious fever as he’s traveling in an impoverished country. 

MUSIC AND MUSICALS

Martin, Love, Sex & Rhythm
July 12, 16, 20, 22, and 27 at Atlas Performing Arts Center
This “sexy” all-male musical explores the topic of gay-on-gay shaming through choreography and top 40 songs. 

Cabaret XXX: Everybody F**king Dies
July 16, 17, 19, 22, 25, and 27
Pinky Swear Productions presents this raucous eulogy to Les Femmes Fatales. Spoiler: The show contains profanity. 

You, or Whatever I Can Get
July 16, 19, 20, 24, and 26 at Fort Fringe
The team behind last year’s Disco Jesus and the Apostles of Funk return with a look at the highs and lows of dating in your twenties and thirties. 

Coosje 
July 10, 12, 13, 15, and 16 at Goethe-Institut
This musical love story features a pear that gains consciousness and travels the world. If that’s not a must-see, what is? 

Rock Bottom (A Rock Opus)
July 10, 13, 16, 18, and 26 at Warehouse
Based on the novel by Michael Schilling, this is the story of a rock band in its death throes. The folks behind it also produced Diamond Dead, which won Best Musical at Fringe in 2008. 

Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 07/10/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
We talk with the founder and area native before the event’s debut on Saturday. By Tanya Pai
A scene from the second annual One-Minute Play Festival in Atlanta, in partnership with Actor’s Express. Photograph by Grant McGowen.

The phrase “one-minute play festival” might conjure the impression of theater designed to indulge the Vine generation. But producing artistic director Dominic D’Andrea had something else in mind entirely when he conceived the project: a way to paint a picture of a city’s culture through 60-second works that capture something essential about the time and place in which they were written. The first One-Minute Play Festival was held in New York City in 2006; it’s now expanded to 22 cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Anchorage, and has featured original works by David Henry Hwang, Neil LaBute, Tina Howe, Mike Daisey, and many more. D’Andrea, a Washington native, brings the festival to the area for the first time this weekend—Saturday, July 12, through the 14th at Round House Bethesda—with brand-new contributions from nearly 60 local playwrights, including Psalmayene 24, Renee Calarco, and Stephen Spotswood. We chatted with D’Andrea about the genesis of the one-minute play concept, how the performances are structured, and what he’s discovered from the experience. 

How did you come up with the idea for a collection of one-minute plays? 

It originally came about as a challenge for some of my friends in New York, just something we did for fun. We wanted to look at how you could take a short play model and distill it down to the most essential moment of impact, and then use it to investigate the local zeitgeist—what topics, themes, ideas, trends, and points of view begin to bubble up to the surface. And then we wanted to figure out how to highlight them and reflect them back to the community. The thing about theater is that it normally takes so long to gestate and birth an idea, it’s hard to make works that engage with current topics. With this, the playwrights can actually just crank something out, and then it goes straight into production. This is our ninth year doing the festival in New York, and if I sat down and looked at what was said in the city in the first year of the festival versus the third year versus the ninth year, it’s just amazing to see that journey. 

Give me an idea of the structure of each performance. 

The Washington festival takes the form of 100 plays staged by ten directors, with almost 80 actors and 60 playwrights. Every minute there’s a pulse, and then a new play begins. They’re staged very simply, all with four chairs, and it’s lights up, lights down—we’re focusing on ideas and connections, things that are more meaningful than the tiny frame of the minute itself.

What sort of direction do you give the playwrights? 

I give them a pretty general prompt that says something like, “Consider the world around you, your city, your neighborhood, your community. Then think about moments that can only happen at this place and this time, and let the worlds around you inform the worlds you make.” I ask them to engage with the here and now, but I don’t tell them what to write about. What’s amazing is there are tons of connections that come up, these big broad sweeping topics that are unique to that place and time. What we’re doing is getting into that and presenting topics but also investigating the big framing questions: Who are we, and what is our relationship to our community and our work? 

How does the time constraint affect how people approach the writing process? 

I normally tell the playwrights to start with an idea and then “seed up”: to think of an image, a word, an action—something that’s the core of the idea they’re trying to express—and then build up to a minute on the page, including only what’s necessary to express that moment, rather than cramming in a bunch of stuff and having everyone onstage blur through it. When a one-minute play is really good, it suggests a world that is much wider, much fuller, much bigger than that moment you’re seeing; it suggests something that transcends the little frame we’re looking at. If it manages to express an idea that’s more universal than what’s in that minute, they’ve succeeded in making a really good one-minute play. That’s actually true of a play of any length, it’s just very much more present in this form. 

When you look at all the plays together, are the themes that emerge mostly universal, or are they more city-specific? 

There are some themes we see everywhere, but more or less they’re totally unique to the city. One thing I’ve seen come up often is the theme of technology, the reliance on it and the ways in which we communicate with it—or don’t. And then sometimes there’s stuff that’s really deeply specific to the city, where ten people will write about something and I have no idea what it is and have to do some research. There was this thing in Chicago where a lot of people were writing about a Swedish water tower, and I eventually realized there was this iconic water tower that had the Swedish flag on it that had been demolished. I can share that in DC, some of themes and ideas bubbling up are about women’s rights and gender, specifically looking at how women are treated differently from men. I’ve also noticed themes of gun control and gun violence, of gentrification and what neighborhoods look like, and just commentary on politics in general. I guess that’s a little bit to be expected in DC—but one of the things I’ve learned is never to expect anything, because you’ll never get what you expect. 

Have you ever found the format to be challenging for audiences to engage with? 

The thing is, we’re presenting 100 pulses of storytelling—it’s not about time constrictions. The name of the festival was developed back in the day, and if I were to choose it today I would probably call it the Barometer Project, because it’s looking at the bigger picture, at what themes and ideas come through the spectrum. You’re not gonna get a linear arc—it’s not gonna start in one place and land in another—it’s more cumulative, and the experience of watching it can be quite athletic and interesting. You’re being presented with a lot of information and then seeing what sticks, so each audience member probably keys into or remembers totally different moments. It’s up to you to measure what sticks. That’s why we use this metaphor of the barometer; it’s like you’re taking a core sample from the earth and examining the cross-section. 

Any advice you’d give people for how to take it all in?

One thing that’s unique is that it’s so much about the group over any individual, a chorus of voices as opposed to a soloist—it’s the whole bag of M&Ms, not the candy bar. The primary value of the work is that it’s sort of communal and looking at connective tissues. I’d encourage people not to get caught up in the goofy idea of a clock counting down. Instead, think of the bigger picture; think about all the stuff that’s going on in the world and the community. That’s what the takeaway should be. 

The One-Minute Play Festival is at Round House Bethesda Saturday, July 12, through Monday, July 14. Tickets ($20) are available online

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 07/09/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Shakespeare’s Globe presents Hamlet, Woolly Mammoth stages Rodney King, and much more. By Tanya Pai
Roger Guenveur Smith stars in the one-man Rodney King at Woolly Mammoth. Photograph by Patti McGuire.

OPENING THIS MONTH

At Woolly Mammoth July 8 through 20 is Rodney King, a one-man show that examines America’s complicated race relationships through a combination of historical detail and improvised poetry. OBIE Award winner Roger Guenveur Smith created and stars in the work. 

Studio Theatre presents Carrie: The Musical, an adaptation of Stephen King’s 1974 novel about a lonely teenage girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers. Lawrence D. Cohen, who’s behind the book, also penned the screenplay for the 1976 Brian De Palma movie. July 9 through August 3 at Studio’s 2ndStage. 

The Tempest, Shakespeare’s comedy about the magician Prospero, his daughter, Miranda, and the mischievous sprite Ariel comes to Olney Theatre’s Root Family Stage July 19, presented by the theater’s National Players as part of their 65th season of touring. Through August 3. 

At Anacostia Playhouse is Campsite Rule, the story of a woman whose one-night fling with a much younger man becomes more involved as she tries to educate him about relationships. The play is based on sex columnist Dan Savage’s relationship rule “Leave ’em better than you found ’em.” July 23 through August 16. 

American Century Theater celebrates a beloved Broadway and Hollywood performer with An Evening With Danny Kaye, July 18 through August 16. Brian Childers—who won a Helen Hayes Award in 2002 for his portrayal of Kaye in Danny and Sylvia: A Musical Love Story—reprises his role. July 18 through August 16. 

Forum Theatre closes out its tenth season with Gidion’s Knot, Johnna Adams’s drama about a mother meeting with her son’s fifth-grade teacher to untangle the circumstances of his suspension from school. When the play premiered at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in 2012, reviewer Sophie Gilbert called it “heart-stopping.” July 19 through August 3. This is a co-production with Herndon’s NextStop Theatre, which hosts performances August 28 through September 14. 

Shakespeare’s Globe presents just three performances of Hamlet at the Folger Theatre on July 25 and 26. The company embarked on a two-year global tour this April to commemorate the Bard’s 450th birthday with the goal of performing in every country in the world. Their stop at the Folger is the tour’s only East Coast appearance. 

After massive success during its 2013 world premiere and eight Helen Hayes Award nominations, Stupid F**king Bird, Aaron Posner’s irreverent take on Chekhov’s The Seagull, returns to Woolly Mammoth July 28 through August 17. 

EVENTS

Round House Bethesda hosts the first One-Minute Play Festival, presenting almost 90 micro-plays by more than 50 Washington playwrights. The playwrights are selected by invitation, and there’s no restriction on theme or topic—the only stipulation is each play must be performed in 60 seconds or less. June 12 through 14. 

The annual Capital Fringe Festival returns, presenting a variety of original nontraditional work at venues around town. New this year is a “site-specific” category, which includes seven works that rely on multiple facets of performance, audience interaction, and other features beyond the typical theater setup. July 10 through 27.

Shepherd University’s Contemporary American Theater Festival also returns, offering five new plays—three of which are world premieres, including Chisa Huchinson’s Dead and Breathing, a dark comedy about an elderly woman determined to end her life on her own terms. July 11 through August 3. 

Washington Improv Theatre presents Binge, five weeks of improvised works on topics ranging from Craigslist missed connections to ’80s sitcoms to TED Talks. July 10 through August 9 at the Source Theatre

Signature’s Sizzlin’ Summer Nights series is back, offering daily performances of cabaret, Broadway, and more from Natascia Diaz, Erin Driscoll, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, and many others. July 9 through 26. 

ONGOING/LAST CHANCE

Scena Theatre’s production of Happy Days closes at Atlas Performing Arts Center on July 5. 

Cloak and Dagger closes at Signature Theatre July 6. 

Also closing on July 6 is Freud’s Last Session at Theater J. Read our review

Grounded has extended its run at Studio Theatre until July 6. Read our review

Side Show is at the Kennedy Center until July 13. Read our review

Private Lives closes at Shakespeare Theatre on July 13. Read our review

Avenue Q has extended its run at Olney Theatre through July 20. Read our review

Posted at 09:51 AM/ET, 07/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
See Side Show, The Totalitarians, Healing Wars, and much more this month. By Tanya Pai
Side Show, the musical about conjoined twins and vaudeville entertainers in the 1920 and ’30s, comes to the Kennedy Center June 14. Photograph by Cade Martin.

OPENING THIS MONTH

The classic musical West Side Story returns to the National Theatre after a pre-Broadway run in 2008. June 3 through 8.

At Warner Theatre June 3 through 8 is We Will Rock You, the Queen jukebox musical about a dystopian future.

The Tony Award-winning puppet musical Avenue Q comes to Olney Theatre Center, offering hits such as “What Do You Do With a BA in English?” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” June 11 through July 6.

Beauty and the Beast, the musical version of the Disney film with a Grammy- and Academy Award-winning score, comes to Wolf Trap June 6 through 8.

No Rules Theatre Company presents Boeing Boeing, about a man juggling several women whose complicated love life is thrown into a tailspin in part thanks to flight delays. June 4 through 29 at Signature Theatre’s Ark Theatre.

Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie stars in Buyer & Cellar, about a struggling LA actor who takes a job in the basement “mall” of a Hollywood star. June 20 through 29 at Shakespeare Theatre.

Ordinary Days, at Round House Bethesda through June 22, is Adam Gwon’s off-Broadway hit about four New Yorkers trying to nativate their romantic lives.

Cloak and Dagger , from Helen Hayes Award winner Ed Dixon, is a musical-comedy whodunit that sends up classic 1950s film noir. June 12 through July 6 at Signature Theatre.

The smash musical adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King, with direction and costumes by Julie Taymor, returns to the Kennedy Center for the first time since 2008, June 17 through August 17.

Arcturus Theatre Company presents Distracted, about two parents trying to deal with their nine-year-old son’s recent diagnosis of ADD. At Atlas Arts Center June 12 through 22.

At the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is Enter Ophelia, Distracted, Taffety Punk’s depiction of Hamlet’s Ophelia as she descends into madness. June 20 through 28.

London’s Gate Theatre brings Grounded—about a female fighter pilot who, because of an unexpected pregnancy, is relegated to flying drones—to Studio Theatre June 10 through 29.

Nancy Robinette stars as a woman trapped up to her waist in earth in Samuel Beckett’s dark comedy Happy Days. June 7 through July 5 at Atlas Arts Center.

At Arena Stage is the world premiere of Healing Wars, a theatrical dance piece narrated by Bill Pullman that explores the experiences of doctors who treat patients during wartime. June 6 through 29.

American Century Theater presents Judgment at Nuremberg, playwright Abby Mann’s work based on the true story of post-World War II war trials. Through June 28.

Cock, Mike Bartlett’s story of a gay man fixated on his encounter with a woman while on a break with his boyfriend, is at Studio Theatre through June 22.

The first play of Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts (August Osage County), Killer Joe is a black comedy about a Southern family who hires a hit man to kill the matriarch in order to collect on insurance money. June 5 through 29 at DC Arts Center.

Academy Award winner Bill Condon directs a reimagined Side Show, the 1997 Broadway musical about conjoined twins and vaudeville entertainers Violet and Daisy Hilton. June 14 through July 13 at the Kennedy Center.

At Round House Silver Spring is The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, about the trial of the biblical traitor taking place in purgatory. Through June 14.

Imagination Stage presents the beloved Roald Dahl classic The BFG, about a friendly giant who brings good dreams to children and the little orphan girl who befriends him. June 26 through August 10.

The Prostate Dialogues , a one-man show by Jon Spelman that explores the effects of cancer on an individual’s life and relationships, runs through June 29 at Theater J.

Private Lives, Noël Coward’s 1930 comedy about a divorced couple who discover they’re honeymooning in adjacent suites, is at Shakespeare Theatre through July 29.

The Totalitarians, Peter Sinn Nachtreib’s farce about a speechwriter’s attempts to get a wealthy housewife into political office, is at Woolly Mammoth through June 29.

Theater Alliance’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia, which premiered at the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival, tells the story of a woman with dissociative identity disorder who’s lost the memory of one hour of her life. June 4 through 28 at Anacostia Playhouse.


ONGOING/LAST CHANCE

A Midsummer Night’s Riot closes June 6 at Keegan Theatre.

Henry IV parts 1 and 2 close at Shakespeare Theatre Company June 7. Read our review.

Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight closes June 7 at Keegan Theatre.

The Piano Lesson closes June 8 at Olney Theatre.

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) closes June 8 at Synetic Theater. Read our review

Freud’s Last Session is at Theater J until June 29. Read our review.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 06/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()