Posts Tagged When January Feels Like Summer
posted by Molly MacLagan, Literary Management and Dramaturgy Intern
This weekend, playwright Cori Thomas heads to the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville to accept the prestigious M. Elizabeth Osborn Award during the annual gathering of the American Theatre Critics Association there for her 2010 City Theatre hit, When January Feels Like Summer. The award recognizes the work of a playwright whose plays have not received a Broadway or Off-Broadway production or other major national awards. It carries a cash prize and receives recognition in the Best Plays theatre yearbook.
Last season, When January Feels Like Summer received its world premiere at City Theatre, and Artistic Director, Tracy Brigden, is thrilled about the award. She tells the Post-Gazette‘s Chris Rawson, who nominated Cori and the play for the Osborn, ”All of us at City Theatre are so proud to have produced the world premiere of such a glorious play.” Her words could not be more true. To read the full Post-Gazette story, go to:
posted by Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager and Dramaturg
It’s the season of giving, and the American Theatre Critics Association gave two gifts to City Theatre new plays this week! Two of our playwrights from this year have been nominated for American Theatre Critics Association new play awards.
Willy Holtzman’s The Morini Strad has been nominated for an ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award, which annually honors the best new American play that’s premiered outside of New York City. Six finalists will be chosen in January, and the winning play will be announced at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the spring of 2011. The winning playwright will receive $15,000 and inclusion in the annual theatre yearbook, Best Plays. The Morini Strad received its world premiere production at City Theatre from November 6-December 12, 2010.
Cori Thomas and When January Feels Like Summer have been nominated for the M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award, which recognizes an emerging playwright for a new script produced outside of New York City. The winning playwright receives $1,000 and recognition in Best Plays. The award will be presented in the spring of 2011. When January Feels Like Summer received its premiere at City Theatre from March 20-April 11, 2010.
Both plays were audience favorites, playing to sold out houses and to overwhelmingly enthusiastic audience response.
Artistic Director Tracy Brigden had this to say about the nominations: “We are thrilled for Willy and Cori and so proud of these productions. These accomplishments are impossible without the dedication and talents of our staff and artists, especially Daniella [Topol] and Chuck [Patterson]’s sensitive direction, the actors’ brilliant performances, dramaturg Carlyn Aquiline’s invaluable guidance and insight, as well as the team of designers and artisans who created gorgeous productions. Bringing new plays to life is what City Theatre does, and we’re honored to share in the success of these extraordinary new plays.”
If you’d like to read more about the awards or the American Theatre Critics Association, see the ATCA’s website.
City Theatre congratulates Willy and Cori. With only about two dozen scripts recommended for these awards in most years, out of hundreds of new plays seen by ATCA critics across the country, being nominated is in itself an honor. But we hope they’ll be sweeping the awards in the spring!
posted by Dianne Duursma, Development Associate
City Theatre will be having Pre-Show Girls Night Out! Friday, April 9th for When January Feels Like Summer, by playwright Cori Thomas. The Pre-Show Vendor Extravaganza begins at 6:30 PM and the performance begins at 8:00 PM. Cocktail Special $4.00
Posted by Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager and Dramaturg
Gita Reddy, who plays Nirmala in When January Feels Like Summer, and playwright Cori Thomas took some great photos at the opening night party, which they recently sent to me. I think it’s clear how much fun everyone was having, buoyed by a terrific opening night performance and a genuine and enthusiastic response from the audience. Enjoy the following opening night gallery.
By Gita Reddy, who plays Nirmala in When January Feels Like Summer
It was after the very first reading of this play back in the fall of 2007 that I remember thinking… there is something very unusual about this piece. When I try to put it into words, I fear I sound so earnest or clichéd, or biased (since I have been with it so long) or just a bit insane. But during my 2 ½ years with this play, and after so many fascinating conversations with audience members and theater colleagues who have seen it, read it or worked on it, it has become increasingly clear that Cori and her wonderously wacky, brilliant or perhaps just astute imagination have created something that taps into all our most surprising reserves of optimism and joy.
I had thought I wanted to write about what exactly that is, or why that is, but… well there I go again. I end up deleting all my attempts at articulating this as they all read as… kinda goofy! But I have to say, this play—and this gorgeous Pittsburgh April that suddenly feels like August (sorry, couldn’t resist)—inspires me to just delight in giddily tromping around some random thoughts on what it’s been like getting to meet the many audiences who have shared Cori’s unique world with us.
As I left the theater that night, I felt speechless. It was as if I had been given the gift of getting to put aside my hard-earned cynicism aside for a few hours, and I almost didn’t know what to speak of instead.
The following summer, I had the privilege of going to the Sundance Institute’s Theatre Lab on a gorgeous mountain in Utah (near where they hold the film festival during the winter) to workshop and help develop the script of this play for 3 weeks. When we did the play’s next staged reading there near the end of July 2008, I was amazed that the reaction was similar, even though the audience this time was all of our colleagues, people who work in theater and see new plays all the time, often on an almost daily basis. After it was over, there was no backstage in the little theater, so the cast just stepped off the stage into the audience, and we were all astonished as people started lining up to talk to each of us. There were folks with tears in their eyes, some who were still laughing, sometimes both at the same time. Cori later told me the same thing happened to her. Sometimes, back in New York, when I run into these lovely people who were at that reading, I get a little teary (though of course I try to hide it) as they recount to me their reactions that day, and their sincerest hope for the future of the play in this tough industry. So many folks sent their overjoyed well wishes for our world premiere here with the great folks at City Theatre.
Now, as we head into our final week with this show here in Pittsburgh in April 2010, I am so grateful for my time with this play, and getting not only to live each show in this magical world that Cori has created, but to get to hear how it has affected those of us who have encountered it. My castmates are simply phenomenal, and I still am in constant amazement at how each brings such humanity and craftsmanship to their roles each and every performance. It has been a blast getting to know them and to talk with them about this special play, and I learned so much watching each of them work their unique mojo in the rehearsal room. I will also admit to never tiring of sneaking peaks from the wings at their work onstage! The backstage staff and City Theatre staff make an ambitious production like this come off so smoothly, all done with such gracious humor and professionalism. And I think we all find ourselves quoting lines from this show constantly, even eight weeks in.
And of course the audiences here in Pittsburgh have been so welcoming, and just continue to amaze me with their generosity and joyful spirit! My mother visited from California and told me she was just delighted with the show, and even she engagingly chatted up her seatmates in the audience both times she saw it. And we continued to talk about it as I proudly showed her around beautiful Pittsburgh, buying spices in the Strip District and… making that wrong turn that landed us amidst some Heinz buildings…? (But even those were picturesque—I meant to show those to you, Mom!)
As I start to prepare to head back home to New York, I find myself feeling inspired and speechless all over again. Getting to re-encounter that first, rather magical experience of Cori’s play with each performance has reminded me that joy is always worth striving for, perhaps especially when it seems the hardest to see, much less grasp. These are moments I hope to carry with me for the next 2 ½ years, and hopefully much beyond.
posted by Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager and Dramaturg
Yesterday, Cori Thomas described the audience feedback to her original City Theatre reading of When January Feels Like Summer in Momentum 08 as “illuminating and inspiring” (see previous post ”An American Play“). Today we hear more feedback from audience members who have been telling us all through the run that they’d describe the play in similar terms. If you still need to be convinced that When January Feels Like Summer is not to be missed, read on to see what audience members have been writing us. Thanks to all whose quotes appear here.
Cari Marty: “When January… was *fabulous* –loved it, loved the story, loved the cast (so impressed with the “kid” from CAPA!!!)… posted the recommendation on my FB page so hopefully lots of my friends will see it.”
Sandi & Peter Behrens: “We thought the entire production was brilliant. Often a play is good but the acting or directing…doesn’t do it justice. Or the play is mediocre but the production is great. In this case we were swept away. New, creative, fabulous! Thank you and yes, we are telling everyone we can think of to see this play.”
Sandi also told us that she’s working part-time now and so she and Peter dropped their other subscriptions, “but made it a priority to figure out a way to keep up the City subscription. You NEVER disappoint and always delight. You can quote that, too!” (Thanks, Sandi!)
Barbara Gaudio: “I must say it was one of the best plays we have ever seen at City Theatre and we have been going for years!!! Six of us had dinner after the performance and each and everyone loved it. The actors were fantastic! I could see it again. Kudos to all those involved. Thanks for keeping us entertained.”
Amy Hartman: “Wow! What a ride. A funny, suprising, and inspiring play. When January Feels Like Summer is a welcomed message that hope is this gift, being given around the most unexpected corners, and the possiblity of finding love is like fireworks in your heart. This story is told in such a fresh bold voice that time flies by.”
Dean Poyner: “I wanted to reach out to you to let you know how much I enjoyed When January Feels Like Summer last night. It was a great crowd, and everyone was really involved. I was impressed with Cori’s storytelling and the rich, fun, vivid characters, and the way we were so clearly along for the journey. It was an amazing reminder of how much we are all deeply willing to buy-in to love. We want to watch the Impossible happen on stage–that’s why we come to the theatre–and when it does, so cleanly and smoothly, yet not without struggle or heartbreak, we are moved. That’s the best kind of perception shift, I think, because it’s one we can see coming, and await, hope for, and at turns cringe or doubt, and finally be resolved and reaffirmed in the end. I heard comments like ‘it was so nice to see a lighter one’ and ‘I needed to see that play’ coming out. And there were sniffles, myself included. Well done. Thanks again.”
Susan DeRiggi-Bost: “Well City Theatre does it again! Glenn and I were at the opening for the play and it was such a different play from the last two. It was more light-hearted and presented their message with a lot of humor. I’ll be back to see it again in April with some friends that enjoy the plays The City provides.”
Susan’s is a great observation on how we try to program a season–we do try to make sure we’re presenting a really interesting variety of work from one play to the next.
Check back for more audience responses–as we get them, well post them. Do you have a question or comment about what you see onstage? My e-mail is to the right–let me know, or reply to Sloan (our marketing director) when he e-mails you to thank you for attending).
posted by Cori Thomas, Playwright, When January Feels Like Summer
As her play When January Feels Like Summer enters the first few days after its world premiere opening, playwright Cori Thomas reflects on the genesis of the play, the influence of her own upbringing on the writing, and what City Theatre’s audience showed her about her own play.
A few years ago I was riding the subway in NYC. I reluctantly sat across from two young African American men who were conducting a raucous, ungrammatical, passionate conversation about a young woman’s teeth. My immediate reaction was to want to move away, but something stopped me and made me listen to them instead. I learned from listening that they were speaking from a place of great concern and affection for the young woman in question. It made me think about how the world would be if we all did what I did that day and took the time to really see, especially in the communities where we live and pass by everyday. It also made me think about immigrants new to living in this country and how invisible they can seem to the dominant culture. Finally, it made me think of stereotypes and how we make decisions about a person’s character and worthiness based on the “outer” face they show the world–and how rarely we look past just what we see initially. This is where this play began. I have attempted to put five characters we might not usually see in a play together and it is my hope that, by the end, the audience will grow to care about them all, as I grew to care about the two young men I saw on the train that day.
I am the American-born daughter of two foreign-born parents. At age 5, my family took me from my home in the United States to grow up living and attending schools in the various foreign countries where my father, a diplomat, was stationed. This experience helps me give voice to my foreign characters that are not regularly seen in American theatre. By placing these foreign-born characters in the same world as the Americans, by having them share the same quests, hopes, and dreams, and by having them live side by side in the same community, I want to begin to contribute to the American theatre in the multi-cultural language that reflects the world I grew up in, and the world we all live in.
I hope that by the end of the play, the audience will understand that, whatever one’s race, gender, or nationality, we are all humans with feelings who share a common need for understanding and love. My purpose is to reveal the complex layers that make up these five people whom one might not normally see as having anything in common. I aim for the play to be seen as multi-layered in structure, form, and style, in much the same way that its characters are multi-dimensional. What might appear to the audience on the surface as simply a comedy whose only goal is to make the audience laugh ought to reveal itself to be more complex and dramatic as the stories develop.
I had one reading of this play at City Theatre (in Momentum 08). The experience was illuminating and inspiring. Seeing the play outside New York City, I discovered that what I thought was a “New York” play is really an American play. The feedback from the audience after the reading confirmed this for me. I am excited and moved by the opportunity to complete the development of this play at City Theatre.
posted by Carlyn Aquiline, Literary Manager and Dramaturg
That’s the headline about Cori Thomas’s When January Feels Like Summer in today’s Tribune-Review article by Alice Carter. When January Feels Like Summer is featured on the cover of the Trib‘s Ticket magazine. Audiences who come along on the quest should find the play surprising–since it kept the playwright wondering what was going to happen next even as she wrote it. Read what Cori tells Alice about discovery in playwriting and about the play’s title, among other things, here. You’ll also find some photos–of Debargo Sanyal as Ishan/Indira on the cover and inside, of Gita Reddy as Nirmala and John Marshall Jones as Joe, and of Carter Redwood as Jeron and Joshua Elijah Reese as Devaun. (By the way, the caption of Carter and Joshua identifies Carter as being on the right in the photo–it’s actually the other way around. Carter is on the left and Joshua is on the right.)