Posts Tagged City Theatre
City Theatre announces four exciting, original plays set for MOMENTUM, the theatre’s annual festival of new plays at different stages, beginning May 31. Whether the theme is growing old or simply growing up, this selection of works in development engages with universal topics—familial obligation and love; the pursuit of fame; race and relationships; coming of age; and the ever-raging debate between science and religion.
MOMENTUM is a celebration of new theatrical works featuring readings, workshops, panels, and conversation. The festival is a chance for audiences to not only see four new works in their earliest incarnations, but also to get to know the process of creating new plays and to glimpse inside the minds of the playwrights.
My Mother Has Four Noses
A musical play written and performed by Jonatha Brooke
Directed by Tracy Brigden
Nancy Lee Stone is a cancer survivor. She has four prosthetic noses and six names. She is a published poet and a Christian Scientist. She is Boolie’s mother, and she has Alzheimer ’s disease. In this moving, one-woman show, filled with music, wit, and emotion, acclaimed singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke tells the story of her journey as she guides her mother through the last months of life.
The Shadow Sparrow
By Anton Dudley (book), Charlie Sohne (lyrics), and Keith Gordon (music)
Directed by Matt M. Morrow
Musical Direction by Douglas Levine
Featuring Candy Buckley and Vince Gatton
Edith abandons her only son to chase a pipe-dream singing career in post-war Europe. With one earring still hanging loosely in her ear, she follows a man who promises fame and fortune into low-down brothels and basements. This lively, new musical envisions the viewpoint of Michel, the son who grew up in a classless Cleveland hotel only to discover a clue that will take the audience on a whirlwind pursuit.
A Swell in the Ground
By Janine Nabers
Directed by Carolyn Cantor
Featuring Daina Griffith, Scotland Newton, Skyler Sullivan, and Bria Walker
Four friends struggle to keep it together in this coming-of-age play about the Millennial Generation. Olivia is coping with her dad’s death in the 9/11 attacks. Nate has to choose between an acting career and a law degree. Charles lives the shallow life of a corporate jetsetter. Abby is a teacher underwhelmed by her students. All is just okay until a marriage dissolves, words are exchanged, paths cross, and life…happens.
Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher about Evolution
By Stephen Massicotte
Directed by Dina Epshteyn
Featuring Robin Abramson, Dan Krell, Sheila McKenna, and Noah Plomgren
How do you teach evolution in a divided America? Raymond has religious tattoos, listens to Christian bands, and has ten questions about evolutionary theory that his Biology teacher Kelly won’t answer. Kelly is an atheist urbanite who is up for review after her first year on the job at a small town high school. As the student and teacher navigate their roles and religious beliefs, both learn an unexpected lesson.
All readings and workshops take place at City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203.
Thursday, May 31
8:00 pm My Mother Has Four Noses
Friday, June 1
6:30 pm Playwrights Panel
8:00 pm The Shadow Sparrow
Saturday, June 2
12:00 pm Songwriting Workshop with Jonatha Brooke
3:00 pm My Mother Has Four Noses
5:30 pm Ten Questions to Ask your Biology Teacher about Evolution
8:00 pm A Swell in the Ground
Sunday, June 3
12:00 pm How a City Theatre Season Gets Made:
A Conversation with Tracy Brigden, Artistic Director, and Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager & Dramaturg
2:00 pm The Shadow Sparrow
$20 four-day pass; $5 per show
Available by phone at 412.431.CITY (2489) or online at CityTheatreCompany.org
Anthony Rapp returns to Pittsburgh this May to play the iconic pop artist, Andy Warhol, in City Theatre’s season finale POP! Anthony took an hour out of his busy rehearsal schedule to paint a picture, no pun intended, of what audiences can expect from POP!. Check out the videos below and stay tuned for more from City Theatre.
POP! MUSIC AND STORY
BEING ANDY WARHOL
Jen Childs stars in her hilarious and heartwarming one-woman comedy, Why I’m Scared of Dance.
Help us welcome Jen!
We thought it appropriate to extend her a heartfelt welcome by sharing our own horror stories of dance. Maybe you have an embarrassing photo or anecdote that you would be willing to share on our Facebook wall? Just click below to post your photos and stories.
Seth Rudetsky is coming to City Theatre for 4 DAYS ONLY!!!
Tickets are limited and going fast to order your tickets go here.
SETH’S BIG FAT BROADWAY SHOW
Based on his hit Sirius/XM Radio show, the larger than life and renowned Seth Rudetsky shares (and sings!) his sassy and irreverent
Broadway knowledge with City Theatre audiences for only 5 amazing performances!
Get a sneak peak of what to expect below.
SETH DECONSTRUCTS BARBARA.
SETH AT THE TONY AWARDS.
Congratulations to Jocelyn Buckner for winning the fourth assignment of our Time Stands Still photo contest.
In honor of City Theatres’ first play of the season Time Stands Still, the story of Sarah a photojournalist, we asked our Facebook fans to go on assignment. The fourth assignment was “Smile”, and our fans responded with great photos and captions, but Jocelyn and her Yorkie took the win. Thank you to everyone who participated… but that’s not all folks we have more assignments. Click here for the next assignment and a chance to win more great prizes from City Theatre.
posted by Molly MacLagan, Literary Management and Dramaturgy Intern
The Amish Project, written and performed by Jessica Dickey and directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde, opens on Friday. The one-woman show was written in response the 2006 Nickel Mines shooting, and explores the events surrounding the tragedy through the eyes of seven fictional characters. Read an interview with Jessica Dickey in today’s Tribune-Review by clicking this link: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ae/theater/s_730999.html
For more information, or for tickets, call 412-431-CITY (2489).
Posted by Molly MacLagan, Literary and Dramaturgy Intern.
Audience members continue to rave about Willy Holtzman’s The Morini Strad. If you haven’t had the chance to see it yet, act quickly! The show closes on December 12, and there’s less than a week to catch it! For some reasons to check it out, read the enthusiastic audience responses below:
“I want to tell you how much I enjoyed… The Morini Strad. I [cried] at least four times throughout the production! The writing, the setting, the actors, and the music were superb. Thank you, all, for such a deeply satisfying experience… as all your plays are.”
“Thank you for the wonderful production of The Morini Strad… It was a remarkable performance by two extremely talented actors, with the assistance of Tony Ferrieri’s innovative and very attractive set and the sound design of Brad Peterson. The result was both gripping and entirely believable. City Theatre productions never fail to entertain, move, and amuse us. Thanks so much for seeing that our time (and money) are so well spent!”
Diane and Graeme E.
Tony Ferrieri’s set for The Morini Strad has been the subject of much praise, and with good reason! With so much attention going to this beautiful and innovative set design, we thought that Tony’s two cents on creating it would be almost as interesting as the set itself. The resident scenic designer at City Theatre, Tony has been affiliated with City Theatre for 31 years! He has designed the scenery for The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Speak American, and The Brothers Size, among many others. Next on the list for Tony, he’ll be designing the set for Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.
Literary and Dramaturgy Intern Molly MacLagan caught up with Tony to pick his brains about The Morini Strad. Here’s what he had to say:
Molly MacLagan: When you receive the script for a show you’re designing, what is the first thing you do after reading it?
Tony Ferrieri: I begin doing research [in this case] on Erica Morini and on the various locations in the play. For The Morini Strad that was researching locations like Upper West Side NY apartments, Mount Sinai Hospital rooms, Violin maker and repair workshops including images of Brian’s actual workshop and visiting Phillip’s workshop here in Pittsburgh, Mannes School of Music, the violin; in particular the Morini Stradivarius… etc.
MM: What was your first thought about the scenic design when you read The Morini Strad?
TF: Because of the sound of violin music I thought that the lines of the set needed to be curved rather than hard lines. The violin is also a curved and beautiful piece of sculpture as well, if you will, so I wanted to in some way use those curves and shapes in the design of the set as well.
MM: Which aspect of designing for The Morini Strad excited you the most?
TF: Mostly I just loved the play! I love plays that relate to the human condition. Plays that are about people and real situations and realistic relationships and real life situations.
MM: Which aspect of it was the least appealing?
TF: Really only the need for multiple locations. It is difficult, especially in the smaller Lester Hamburg space to achieve that in a set design, especially sets that require a bed to be onstage!
MM: My favorite parts of the design are the echoes of the violin itself in the set – the strings and the violin-shaped platform. How did you make the decision to essentially create a violin as the world where the characters would be playing?
TF: It just really made the most sense for the play to in some way incorporate the shapes and curved lines of the violin in the set design. The Violin is like a third character in this play and is central to the plot and the story. So we decided to, sort of, deconstruct the violin use those lines and I used those shapes and different elements and parts of the violin in designing the set.
MM: What is your favorite part of the final set?
TF: I am so pleased with the design and really love the whole design so much but if I had to choose one thing I think my favorite part would be the “strings”. They create a frame around the set and the playing area and in particular my favorite part is the four piece [of violins]; the full violin, the scroll with the fingerboard, the bridge and the tail piece hanging from the strings USL. It is the extra salt in the ocean!
by Carlyn Aquiline
City Theatre Literary Manager and Dramaturg
Happy New Year! After some brief holiday time, we headed back into the rehearsal hall just before the new year for the start of rehearsals for The Clockmaker by Stephen Massicotte (the author of last season’s Mary’s Wedding). It hadn’t struck me until then how appropriate it was that we had scheduled this rehearsal process—by no conscious design—at a time of year when people are remembering and re-evaluating their pasts and making choices for the future. The Clockmaker is all about time, and memory, and consciously pursuing the well-lived life—literally, creating the time of your life while you still can. In the play, Heinrich Mann, the clockmaker, meets Frieda Mannheim when she brings him her husband’s mangled cuckoo clock to repair. And this action in due course sets them off on a race against time to solve a puzzle that ignites universal and existential questions of identity, the mystery and meaning of life, personal responsibility, choice, the ethical life—never let it be said that Stephen Massicotte flinched from the big questions!
Artistic Director Tracy Brigden is directing The Clockmaker, so she said a few words at the first rehearsal to the assembled staff and cast, which includes Harry Bouvy as Heinrich Mann (look for Harry’s blog—I’m sorry, “not a blog”—entry following this one on his triumphant return to his hometown just for this role), Tami Dixon (A Marriage Minuet, The Missionary Position, The Muckle Man) as Frieda Mannheim, Joel Ripka (Mezzulah, 1946) as Adolphus Mannheim, and making his first appearance at City Theatre, Daryll Heysham as Monsieur Pierre. Here are some highlights of her remarks:
“Time belongs to the people.” It’s sort of the slightly Communist catchphrase of the play. Jeff Cowie [set designer] and I almost made a red neon sign that was part of the set that said that. [She was kidding.] But what does it mean? Other time slogans in the play: “We can’t make time, that’s up to you” and “…making the best with the time they have.” …Time bounces all over the place in the story—and makes us piece together a complicated puzzle out of order. Time moves differently in different scenes…What strikes me most in the time theme is the idea of how you spend time….the idea of enjoying it while you can.
Those who saw Mary’s Wedding last season may read Tracy’s remarks (and mine) and be reminded of it since Stephen’s storytelling in that play is told with a fluid sense of time, place, and memory. Mary’s Wedding is the story of Mary and Charlie, who connect in her dreamscape even after he has gone off to fight in World War I and she has remained behind in Canada. In The Clockmaker, however, Stephen may have invented a new genre: absurdist romantic comedy metaphysical murder mystery, in reverse. He calls the tone “Kafka lite” and refers to it as his “atheist play”—but the world of the play actually has a clear theology, just one invented by the playwright. Another characteristic it does share with Mary’s Wedding is a charm and sweetness in the love story. And despite having its genesis in the death of Stephen’s stepfather, which got him to thinking about things like existence and the root of morality, the play has a distinctive and winning sense of humor. (Stephen told us on the first day of rehearsal that all of his plays end up being about how to live well and how to die well. He said, when he’s in the process of writing, he’ll be thinking he’s writing a new play and then realizes he’s writing the same play again. I think that’s not unusual—all playwrights have one or two recurring themes that crop up again and again.)
Perhaps an anecdote from the Clockmaker Meet and Greet will provide a glimpse into the mind that can achieve equilibrium among such a number of elements that seem incongruent. As an ice breaker, we introduced ourselves and then answered a question related to the show’s themes: something along the lines of “what would you want to make sure was present in Heaven (or your version of the “good” afterlife) when you get there?” (which was already making a number of big assumptions!). Lots of people said things like “ice cream,” “chocolate,” “books,” and “my family.” Stephen Massicotte said, “Charles Darwin—because it would be ironic.” See? It opens a window, doesn’t it?
by Corinna Archer
Before David Harrower’s internationally acclaimed play Blackbird begins, the audience already knows they are about to see something different. A new seating configuration in City Theatre’s Lester Hamburg Studio Theatre is just one of the many ways in which the design for Blackbird enhances the play’s unsettling journey and challenges the audience’s expectations. Harrower’s Blackbird is not your typical love story, but a disturbing encounter between Ray and Una, who are as surprised by what unfolds when they confront their past relationship as the audience is. Not only do the set and costume designs make intriguing first impressions on the audience, but they also intensify the relationship between the characters and the discoveries that are made by the audience during the course of the play. Although the design may appear realistic in a way that immediately draws the audience into the world of the play, it is also full of unexpected metaphors that address the characters’ psychological and emotional experiences, asking the audience to reconsider the way in which “appearances can be deceiving.”
The alley seating configuration that was initially suggested by the director Stuart Carden is perhaps the most immediate surprise that the design for Blackbird has in store for its audience. The first time this theatre has been reconfigured in almost ten years, the new seating arrangement places the audience on either side of the stage so that each audience member is not only confronting the action on stage in a new way, but also sees the members seated opposite while they watch the show. Just as Blackbird’s characters are never certain if they can trust what they see in front of them, the audience is insecure in this unfamiliar relationship to the performance and must constantly reassess what is happening on stage.
The seating configuration also distances the audience from the realistic design, underscoring the play’s thematic issue of appearance versus reality. At first glance, the set, designed by Tony Ferrieri, looks like a “slice” of an authentic office break-room, complete with un-matching furniture, vending machines, lockers, and overhead fluorescents. Realistic details like cup-rings on the table, electrical wiring running up the walls, and various food wrappers littering the set give it a “thrown-together” and non-descript look. Like the set design, the costume design gives the characters authenticity from the very beginning of the play. In his khakis and blue collared shirt, Ray looks like a “regular guy” who fits into the play’s break-room setting, while Una appears to be a stylish, “sexy young adult,” as costume designer Crystal Gomes described these characters. However, while the characters and their physical environment at first seem reassuringly familiar to the audience, this sense of security is quickly shattered by the play’s unusual story.
The design never lets the characters, or the audience, get comfortable, underscoring the tension between Una and Ray that is present from the very first lines of Blackbird. The alley seating configuration forces the set into a long, narrow corridor that becomes even more box-like and closed by the low-hanging fluorescent lights and beams that place a “lid” on the stage. This pressurized space makes the intensity of the action on stage even more threatening and suspenseful: the audience never knows when the lid might blow. The break-room itself sets the tone of the play with its cold blues and grays, which Ferrieri chose to support the apprehension and distance felt by Una and Ray during their initial interaction. The harsh, bare fluorescents also help to make the space uncomfortable, both for the characters and the audience. Like the play itself, this set is hard to look at in a powerful and provocative way. Just as Una and Ray must face an unpleasant reality in this small, stark break-room, so must each person sitting in the house of the theatre, forced to confront the difficult questions that Blackbird poses. The costumes add to the tension by clearly contrasting the way Ray and Una present themselves and relate to the set. Ray, who tries to remain anonymous, wears his work clothes as a kind of office “camouflage.” Una, on the other hand, sticks out in her trendier, darker city look, and has no way of hiding on stage. Like the checkerboard pattern on the floor, Ray and Una are even visually in conflict with one another, engaged in a complex game throughout the play.
As the play progresses, the design moves further away from reality to metaphorically address the play’s various themes and questions that relate to the emotional and psychological state of the characters. The trash left on stage, for example, which at first only appears to be another element of realism, making the space feel “lived-in” by Ray’s coworkers, becomes an effective visual metaphor for the issue of abandonment that arises during the course of the play. Other prominent issues, such as who to blame when ordinary rules and values cannot explain what happens, whether or not you can trust who someone says they are, or what it means to be in the wrong place at the wrong time are all underscored by Blackbird’s surprising design. Just as the play’s compelling yet disturbing story asks the audience to reconsider even the most instinctive values such as right and wrong or real and false, Blackbird’s design challenges the audience to experience the play in a new way that enhances the power of Harrower’s unique but troubling love story.
Often on the first day of rehearsal, just before the design presentations and the first read-through, the director will give a brief presentation of his or her thoughts to cast and company to kick off the process. As we approach performances of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we thought our readers would find it interesting to hear what Tracy Brigden had to say at her first rehearsal.
The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde resides in our collective conscious regardless of whether we have ever read the 100-page novella. What we think of when we talk of a Jekyll and Hyde is a person who is extreme in flipping his moods or someone who lives an upright life in public and does dark deeds when no one is looking. However, this is really a story about a pioneer—an explorer whose scientific and human curiosity has led him to the most uncharted territory, more dangerous than any remote jungle or mountain top. It is a story about the unconscious and what really lurks beneath the surface in all of us—regardless of our class or upbringing or outward morality.
Do we all have a secret desire to fully embrace our id, our seven deadly sins, to become all get and no give, and see what that’s like? Do we harbor the notion that this stifling condition called “civilized” society is holding us back from our true selves? If we were not fettered and polished and corseted by faith and manners, who would each of us really be? Jekyll says, “Coursing through our veins is the river of our old ways, before man created mortality…”
In modern society is there an encroaching pressure to be “normal”? The idea of behavior being controlled by pharmacology is rampant: if we are a little odd or emotional or overly social or not happy enough our chemistry should be altered to bring us back to “normal.” As Jekyll explains to Utterson, “If we could find the chemical balance that would isolate these rages, these horrors, wouldn’t we pursue their cure?”
What is unique about Jeffrey Hacther’s adaptation is that it veers away from the black and white notion of Jekyll as all good and Hyde as all evil. They each are complex: Hyde feels love for Elizabeth, Jekyll’s pride and vanity make him hate Carew; Hyde wants to sacrifice himself for the life of Elizabeth, but Jekyll is ready to forsake her to save his own…HIDE. With four Hydes roaming the stage and gradations of good and bad in each character, the play points up the notion that we all have a dual personality and it is nurture, not nature, that brings out different aspects of each of us.
The backdrop of the play is Victorian London, a time of great discovery and change but also a time of turmoil and huge disparity between the classes. For instance, the median age of death of a person of means was about 45—while the median age of a poor person was 25. Poor, uneducated people—especially poor women—had few choices in working and living opportunities. The housing and sewage conditions for the poor were deplorable—disease and crime were rampant. The life of a servant offered better living conditions—but the pay was miniscule and the hours slave-like. Many turned to prostitution, grave-robbing, and pick-pocketing before they would give up and go to the worst place in London—the Poor House.
The medical profession was just expanding to include specialists for ailments like lung disease which was an epidemic from the pollution and factory work. The introduction of ether into the medical repertoire made child birth and surgery much easier. A doctor like Jekyll would have been associated with one of the teaching and research hospitals for the poor. Most people of means had doctors come to their homes for exams, leeching, childbirth, or surgery. Both Jekyll and Hyde the book and the play highlight this class disparity and highlight the importance for a man like Jekyll to maintain his good social standing within the community and his profession.
It is important to remember that the first readers of the novella had no idea that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. There is speculation that Stevenson meant for his readers to think that Jekyll—a bachelor who had taken a great interest in this young man Hyde—was actually having a homosexual affair with Hyde and being blackmailed by him for money and protection. Apparently this was a common scheme at the time—to blackmail a man to cover up his gay affairs—even if he wasn’t having them! However, the important point is that when Lanyon sees Hyde turn back into Jekyll, it was as much a shock to the readers as it is to Lanyon.
Hatcher has borrowed Stevenson’s technique of using collected testimony, diary entries, and newspaper accounts to make the narrative more true and real. This technique serves the suspense, as the individual narrators do not know the outcome of the story. The veracity of the testimonies is further endorsed by the reliability of the witnesses—two doctors and a lawyer who use their professional expertise to investigate the mystery that surrounds them like a detective story, trying to get to the bottom of Jekyll’s will, his strange association with the mysterious Hyde, and the murder of Carew. The sensational outcome of the mystery is enhanced by the fact that the horror not only occurs within London but within a respectable member of society.
Our design pushes the envelope of the period, and the set and costumes and lights and sound will have a more modern nuance to them, which will make the production more visceral and vivid and theatrical. However, we are going to embrace the melodrama of the horror story, and its surprise and violence, and hopefully get a few gasps and groans and even some nervous laughter in the process. Most of all, even though our audience certainly knows the answer to the mystery, I hope they will still be riveted by this very human story and come along for the ride as if they don’t know what’s going to happen.