Category Archives: Theater

Stories to Warm the Soul

matzoh-ball-diariesMost Jews have fond memories about food. Throw some funny stories in the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a great show: the latest Salon Theatre Series from Jewish Women’s Theatre, “The Matzo Ball Diaries.”

Sitting in the back office of The Braid, JWT’s home base in Santa Monica for the past 2½ years, artistic director Ronda Spinak spills some of her own Jewish humor: “I was home from college for my family Seder at our friends’ house. The daughter of my mother’s friend whose house it was brought home, for the first time, her Orange County, Southern-born WASP boyfriend. He never probably met Jews before. He definitely had never been to a Seder. The Gefilte fish got put down. He took a big bite and said, ‘Probably taste really good if it were barbecued.’ We just all laughed.”

Spinak explains that the aim of JWT’s show is to explore on stage stories that connect us to food. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Travelers From Invisible Cities Sing and Dance Through Union Station

The cast of “Invisible Cities” rehearses at Union Station. Photo courtesy of The Industry.

The cast of “Invisible Cities” rehearses at Union Station. Photo courtesy of The Industry.

A tall, slim dancer commands the attention of everyone in his immediate area in the entrance of downtown LA’s Union Station. He’s rehearsing for Invisible Cities, an experimental opera collaboration between Yuval Sharon’s The Industry and Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project, which premieres Saturday at the stroke of 7 pm.

Falling, sliding, lunging and flailing, the dancer executes large movements in a designated small space. Suddenly, another dancer gallops briskly by the first company member, hands flapping wildly, scratching his head and neck, keeping to his own rhythm. But he doesn’t stop. He heads out the main doors and into the night because, in fact, he is not a cast member. In retrospect, he was one of the eccentrics who frequent Union Station, one of the many characters who will make this innovative production even more interesting and challenging.

“From the beginning of the concept [of Invisible Cities], I wanted the piece to feel like an invisible layer of what is already among the reality of Union Station,” says Sharon, director of Invisible Cities and artistic director of The Industry, an LA-based nonprofit that aims to expand the traditional definition of opera and explore new paradigms for interdisciplinary collaboration. “The idea that there is a really eclectic, wild mix of personalities, characters, costumes, activities — that’s a major theme of the performance.”

Union Station is gorgeous to look at …

Read full article at LA Stage Times.

Orrach’s Corner Connects Boxing, Dancing, Jazz, Father, Son

Photo by Enci Box

Photo by Enci Box

“Joe’s a physical, full-of-movement guy,” says Lizbeth Hasse, co-writer of In My Corner, as she joins Joe Orrach for an interview in the lobby of the Odyssey Theatre over Labor Day weekend.

Orrach is a boxer, tap dancer, storyteller, former Teatro ZinZanni performer and star of the one-man play In My Corner, which opens Friday. It’s a father-son redemptive tale, according to Hasse, based on the writings in Orrach’s journal. Together, Hasse and Orrach wrote the script, which caught the eye of Jeremiah Chechik (Benny & Joon, Diabolique, The Avengers (1998), plenty of recent TV episodes), who signed on to direct. Three musicians play Latin jazz as Orrach taps, punches, skips and shares his story of a Puerto Rican-Italian kid from the Bronx who finds his voice through the arts.

“I wrote a journal years ago to try to figure out what was going on because I wasn’t in a good place,” Orrach says. “It was very cathartic. I wrote for four days nonstop, and then let it go.”

Years later, Orrach asked Hasse, a San Francisco-based entertainment lawyer whom he describes as his “lady,” to take a look. He thought he saw the makings of a story, and Hasse agreed.

“The journal was stream of consciousness,” Hasse says. “So we talked about it. And I started to see the arc of the story. I wrote scenes. I’d read them. He’d do movement. We figured out where the story was better expressed in movement than words. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

The Traces Team Ventures Into the Music Center

The ensemble of “Traces.” Photo by Michael Meseke.

The ensemble of “Traces.” Photo by Michael Meseke.

On Monday, 7 Fingers circus performer Bradley Henderson boarded a plane for Los Angeles for the Music Center debut of Traces, which opens Friday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and runs through the weekend. Fresh off a three-week break from the US tour, he’s excited to re-unite with the cast as well as the show’s directors/choreographers, Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, who choreographed the circus scenes for the current Broadway revival of Pippin and have been busier than usual, preparing for its opening night Thursday.

Henderson and these two (out of seven) founding members of Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers) go way back. They all met in San Francisco, where their individual passions for circus were piqued, and then headed to Montreal, the epicenter of modern-day circus.

In 2002, seven like-minded circus lovers in Montreal — Carroll, Snider, their husbands and three former circus colleagues — decided to form 7 Fingers. Its first production was Loft, and the company went on to create a string of wildly popular shows, which although different in setting offer the same 7 Fingers style of blending circus with dance and theater. Most important, the performers play themselves, without makeup and costumes, and each new added cast member brings his or her personality and talent to a production.

Now in its third incarnation, Traces fuses classic acrobatics with street culture activities such as skateboarding, basketball and parcour. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Ken Roht Transforms Miss Julie Into Miss Julie(n)

Jonny Rodgers, Dylan Kenin and Erica Rice in "Miss Julie(n)." Photo by Ashley West Leonard.

Jonny Rodgers, Dylan Kenin and Erica Rice in “Miss Julie(n).” Photo by Ashley West Leonard.

When Ken Roht first saw Mike Figgis’ 1999 film Miss Julie, an idea was born. As a gay man, Roht (best known for his 99cent holiday shows) thought he could completely relate to Julie. He knew at once he wanted to embody her on stage. Ten years later, although Roht has handed the title role to Jonny Rodgers, Ken Roht’s Miss Julie(n) opens at MorYork Gallery this week for 12 performances through March 10.

More than a few artists have shared Roht’s impulse to recreate Miss Julie. August Strindberg’s 1888 play popped up in 1971 on television with Helen Mirren, again as the Figgis film starring Saffron Burrows, and in 2007 at LA’s Fountain Theatre, this time set in 1964 Mississippi with an interracial twist. One month from now the Geffen Playhouse presents Neil LaBute’s adaptation directed by Jo Bonney, and it was recently reported that Liv Ullmann will direct a new film version starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell.

Roht’s piece features a cast of 12, and song and dance.He maintains that his is a responsible adaptation of the play. “What works is that we just changed the gender and sexuality of the lead character,” Roht says. “To me that’s an interesting experiment that works out. It’s not meant to be some abstraction so I could make a gay play.”

Miss Julie(n) follows Julien, a lonely gay man who feels oppressed by his father. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Circus Oz Returns to UCLA With From the Ground Up

Stevee Mills and Jeremy Davies in Circus Oz's "From the Ground Up." Photo by Rob Blackburn

Stevee Mills and Jeremy Davies in Circus Oz’s “From the Ground Up.” Photo by Rob Blackburn

As Mike Finch explains his role as artistic director of Circus Oz over the phone from Tacoma, Wash., loud noises erupt in the background. The Australian company features a 12-piece live band, and Finch is at sound check.

This week, Circus Oz lands in Los Angeles for a four-day run of its From the Ground Up at Royce Hall, as part of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA) season. It’s the troupe’s first time in LA since the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival — when the company appeared across the UCLA campus at the smaller Freud Playhouse. Reviewing Oz in that 1984 run, Sylvie Drake ended her glowing LA Times notice by proposing a transfer to a larger LA venue:  “If we had any sense at all, we should move them into the Ahmanson after Evita closes and keep them there all summer.”

Finch was equally impressed when he first saw Oz a few years later, when he was 21. “It completely blew me away,” Finch says. He dreamed of selling programs or being a stagehand for the company. “It put together all of the pieces for me, because it was funny, irreverent, musical, spectacular, political.”

Read full article at LA Stage Times

REDCAT Hosts red, black & GREEN: a blues

Marc Bamuthi Joseph/Photo by Bethanie Hines

Marc Bamuthi Joseph/Photo by Bethanie Hines

The Living Word Project’s red, black & GREEN: a blues begins with an invitation to audience members to tour the stage as if they’re in an art gallery.

During their walking “tours,” theatergoers can examine four structures representing cities — Chicago, Houston, New York, and Oakland. In each of these cities, Living Word Project’s artistic director Marc Bamuthi Joseph has produced one of his Life Is Living urban eco-festivals. Together, these cabins on the stage, crafted by artist Theaster Gates, form a shotgun house. Joseph describes it as similar to a shack in a township in Soweto, Johannesburg, or on a back road in Fifth Ward Houston. An actor occupies each of the structures.

“The actors are basically performing aspects of the show that will make a little deeper sense later,” says Joseph, referring to the rest of his 90-minute meditation on what sustains life in struggling communities. “The whole first half-hour is a gallery installation that’s a foreshadowing of the linear play to come.” It all starts Thursday at REDCAT.

Read the full article at LA Stage Times

Storytales: John Edgar Wideman With an Inglish Beat

Ford Amphitheatre

“I have a belly brain,” says WordTheatre artistic director Cedering Fox, “and when I’m really connecting to something my belly goes nuts.” Fox is explaining her passion for what she does over the phone. It’s contagious. My tummy begins to flutter. She cherishes the spoken word and the way universal stories share what it is to be human. So she creates theater from actors reading contemporary short stories.

“I get these wonderful writers and their stories, and I cast great actors doing the reading,” she explains. “I direct the actors, and they bring the stories to life so it is the most magical, simplest, purest form of theater — just storytelling.”

On Saturday, October 6, at the Ford Amphitheatre, WordTheatre presents Storytales, featuring the latest work of John Edgar Wideman, recited by a list of aurally recognizable talent, including Keith David, Dennis Haysbert, Marla Gibbs, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Lynn Whitfield.

Fox started WordTheatre 10 years ago. The nonprofit is dedicated to keeping language and literature alive. “And we do that by getting the best writers of short stories in the English-speaking world,” declares Fox.

Wideman is a one-time Rhodes scholar, recipient of a MacArthur genius grant and the first writer to earn the PEN/Faulkner fiction award twice. He is also a tenured English professor at Brown University and now a dear friend to Fox.

Fox had her first brush with Wideman in New York in 2009, when she directed Lynn Whitfield reading one of his stories. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Mikhail Baryshnikov – A Russian “In Paris”

Photo by Maria Baranova

Mikhail Baryshnikov is standing alone on stage. A woman walks toward him. Not a prima ballerina, but a young Moscow-born actress named Anna Sinyakina, or “a mysterious creature,” as Baryshnikov calls her.

He doesn’t lift her over his head. She doesn’t spin swiftly between his fingers. Their bodies are still. He speaks Russian for the first time on stage. This is not the image most people have of Baryshnikov performing. He is now 64, about two decades past the period that he considers the peak of his ballet career.

This week, Baryshnikov kicks off the U.S. premiere of In Paris, an adaptation of a short story by Ivan Bunin, the first Russian to win a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933, at Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Bunin lived in exile in France after the Russian Civil War (1918-1920) and died in Paris in 1953, never having returned to Russia. Bunin’s background informs In Paris.

Mikhail Baryshnikov; Photo by Annie Leibovitz

“It’s a very simple story about a White Army general who lives in Paris and meets a young woman, also Russian, and they have a certain tragic love affair,” Baryshnikov says via phone from his Baryshnikov Arts Center offices in Manhattan. He speaks in a matter-of-fact tone, which he maintains throughout our conversation two weeks before the Los Angeles opening. The premiere of In Paris took place in Helsinki in August 2011. The show then traveled to the Netherlands, Paris and Tel Aviv, and it’s scheduled to continue on to Berkeley, Italy and New York. The script is in French and Russian, with English supertitles.

Parallels flow between Bunin’s, Baryshnikov’s and the fictional character’s stories. Baryshnikov’s father was in the Russian military …

Read full article on LA Stage Times