Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nantucket Sentries

Nantucket Sentries by arthennessey
Nantucket Sentries, a photo by arthennessey on Flickr.

The Annual "Eat Your Theater Vegetables" List: 2011-2012

I'll get to that classic play eventually.

Instead of penning a memoir about how I spent a year seeing classics of the theater and learned how to get a book contract, I thought I would just post my annual list of canonical theatrical productions.

This list is not risky, but remember that it is being compiled by a man whose job in the military was making sure he never engaged the enemy.

We all have those shameful admissions, you know the ones I'm talking about, don't you? You hate all over Flaubert, but have never cracked the spine of Madame Bovary. You were supposed to read at least sections of The Illiad in high school, but you got the Cliff Notes instead, (younger readers may have even rented Troy, starring Brad Pitt as Achilles.) A DVD of Citizen Kane still sits in the shrink wrap on your bookshelf, and you downloaded the MP3 album for Don Giovanni, but you can't remember on which drive it resides.

This list is for you!

The ephemeral nature of theatrical productions provides added challenges to the already fragile self esteem of the cultural poseur. You can, of course, pick up a copy of The Misanthrope by Moliere, but it may be years before a production will come to the area. If you miss that one chance, your guilt may eat away at you for another five years.

Fear not! Below is a list of Boston area productions of canonical theatrical works that are coming up in the 2011-2012 season.

Some of these are very rare, indeed. For instance, Porgy and Bess is not produced all that often. However, some are staples of large and small theaters, (The Crucible, Chicago, A Streetcar Named Desire,) but if you haven't seen them, you probably should.

The emerging playwright of this list is Euripides! Boston audiences will see three stagings of his work in the upcoming season. Two of these will be by Whistler in the Dark.

Audiences will have two chances to see Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, although the production at Yale Repertory Theater is subtitled "A New Version by Sarah Ruhl".

I have also included a new play on this list. Performing artist Laurie Anderson is an influential part of the late Twentieth century American theater and her new piece Delusion is at ArtsEmerson this fall.

So, here it is.

August: Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin at American Repertory Theatre

September: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett at Boston Conservatory

September: The Crucible by Arthur Miller at Hartford Stage

September: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard at The Footlight Club

September: His Girl Friday by John Guare, adapted from The Front Page by Ben Hecht/Charles Macarthur and Columbia Pictures at Trinity Rep

September: Candide Music Leonard Berstein. Lyrics Richard Wilbur, Book by Hugh Wheeler at Huntington Theatre Company

September: The Bacchae by Euripides at Whistler in the Dark

September: Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov (Translation Sarah Ruhl) at Yale Repertory

September: Delusion by Laurie Anderson at ArtsEmerson

September: The King and I by Rodgers and Hammerstein at North Shore Music Theatre

September: Tiny Kushner; An Evening of Short Plays at Zeitgeist Stage

October: Chicago by Kander and Ebb at MetroStage Company

October: Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill at Emerson Stage

November Mabou Mines Dollhouse at ArtsEmerson

November: Lend Me a Tenor by Ken Ludwig - Longwood Players

November: The Balcony by Jean Genet at Boston Conservatory

November: Noises Off by Michael Frayn at Quannopowitt Players

November: Ain't Misbehavin' at Lyric Stage Company

November: A Doctor in Spite of Himself by Moliere at Yale Repertory

December: The Imaginary Ivalid by Moliere at Boston University School of Theatre

January: Fen by Caryl Churchill at Whistler in the Dark

January: The Play About the Baby by Edward Albee at Equisite Corps Theatre

January: The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard at Salem Theatre Company

January: Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn at The Footlight Club

January: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Arlington Friends of the Drama

February: Medea by Euripides at Actors Shakespeare Project

March: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson at Huntington Theater Company

April: Boeing, Boeing by Marc Camoletti at Trinity Rep

April: Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill at New Rep

April: The Miracle Worker at Wheelock Family Theater

May: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams at Vokes Players

May: Anything Goes by Cole Porter at Longwood Players

May: Trojan Women by Euripides at Whistler in the Dark

May: Private Lives by Noel Coward at Huntington Theatre Company

June: Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov at The Footlight Club

So I should say that there is always some debate about this list. Some plays were enormous hits in their times, but maybe aren't really canonical, (as you can tell, I'm using that term loosely.) For instance, Bell, Book and Candle is on at Hartford Stage next Spring, but is that frothy Broadway smash of the 1950's really essential viewing? Then again, I have included the sexy farce Boeing, Boeing at Trinity Rep. I am not a fan of The Play About the Baby, but it is one of the few Albee plays on offer this year. Tony Kushner is not really known for his short plays, but when else are you going to see a whole evening of them, like you will at Zeitgeist Stage this fall?

The companies presenting these works range from large to small, and from professional to community to student. While I cannot, of course, vouch for these particular productions, I can say that all of the companies listed have done great work in the past. Boston has some of the oldest community theaters in the country, and you will often find some of hottest fringe actors from downtown at Arlington Friends of the Drama or at the Footlight Club in Jamaica Plain. In fact, directors from Boston's best professional companies are called upon to helm productions at the local universities.

By the way, I don't include Shakespeare on this list, because it goes without saying, I hope.

So, there it is, and let me know your thoughts, or clue me into anything I've missed - the comments section was invented for that kind of thing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Boston's Publick Theatre Goes on Hiatus

Empty Theatre
(Photo Credit Mark Simpson)

The Boston Globe has the story.

Artistic Director Diego Arciniegas is stepping down.

“It became clear to me that I needed to move on,’’ said Arciniegas, 51, who stepped down in tandem with Publick Theatre Boston producing director Susanne Nitter. “This is something we spent a lot of time talking about.’’

Both Arciniegas and Nitter will remain on the Publick’s board to help with the transition - a process that, he said, might entail spending a year or two interviewing candidates and redefining the theater’s mission.

The Publick, under Diego's leadership, has had some high times (Design for Living,9 Circles) and some troubled times (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which resulted in a conflict with the playwright Edward Albee ) in their recent years of residency at the Boston Center for the Arts.

As an organization, The Publick has weathered quite a few financial and executive shakeups. Both those columns were shifting in the sand a number of years back when Spiro Veludos made his departure. The Publick survived.

This seems like purely an artistic departure - the statement to the Globe insists that the Public is doing fine in the economic downturn. However, the final part of the statement does leave the future of the company a little ambiguous.

Last summer, the Publick's outdoor stage at Christian Herter Park (Photo above by Mark Simpson) served as the home of the ever-extending run of the Orfeo Group's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The T Plays - Now a Tradition

T Theater

Mill 6 Collaborative seems to have hit the sweet spot when it came up with its playwriting challenge called The T Plays.

Tomorrow night marks the opening of the third annual run of this unique mini-festival.

Seven Boston-based playwrights boarded the MBTA last Saturday morning, and by that night they had to have a draft of a ten minute play to hand into the festival organizers.

Within a week, the plays are staged with some of Boston's best fringe directors overseeing some of the Hub's talented actors.

Wondering what it's like for a playwright to be under such pressure? John Greiner-Ferris, one of the participating writers, chronicles the experience on his blog.

For those who have never attended before, I would advise getting tickets early The Factory Theater is a very small venue.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Boston Theatre - Friday Roundup


The Orfeo Group opens their production the 2007 Olivier Award-winning play Love Song at the Charlestown Working Theater. As a reminder, Thursday nights are free of charge at Orfeo.

Stephen Deitz's Shooting Star, a tale of lovers reuniting, starts a run at Salem Theatre Company.

The Sound Of Music will be heard starting this weekend at the Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham.

Last Chance

Tracy Lett's paranoid fantasy Bug keeps getting under the skin of audiences at The Factory Theater through Saturday night.

Gloucester Stage's production of Last Day will see its last day this weekend.


The Office star Mindy Kaling's comedy Matt and Ben about the early days of the Good Will Hunting boys continues at Central Square Theater.

Hit the Boston Common for your free outdoor Shakespeare fix with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's production of All's Well That Ends Well.

Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead continues to play alongside Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Roxbury Latin Summer Festival Theater.

The Arabian nights keep spinning on at the Boston Center for the Arts as Company One's production of Jason Grote's 1001 plays on.

(Photo Credit: Eric Laurits.)