Thursday, September 29, 2005

prisoners' reaction

Nike Imoru gave an introductory talk and took questions at all of Interplayers' outreach performances of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at local prisons.

She says reactions were "more visceral, more immediate, more dramatic" with that particular crowd. There they were, three men performing a stripped-down version of Frank McGuinness' hostage drama in a brightly lit cafeteria, "with the fans and the air conditioning going, and the vending machines making noise, and the men seated two inches from the actors' feet," says Imoru. And when Adam (Charles Gift) starting singing "Amazing Grace" at the end of Act One, "80 men started humming -- spontaneously humming." When the two other actors said "Thank you," suddenly there were men all over the room saying "thank you," "like light bulbs going off -- pop, pop, pop," Imoru reports.

With people who are incarcerated, says Imoru, with both the men and the women, "they'll laugh uproariously, then it would immediately become quiet. There'd be a sudden burst of laughter, then crying."

Audience emotions close to the surface -- far from an unacceptable atmosphere for a show. In fact, close to an ideal one.

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me closes this Saturday, Oct. 1.

cast for Irma Vep

In The Mystery of Irma Vep (Oct. 20-Nov. 12 at Interplayers), two actors play eight roles -- including an Egyptologist and a werewolf.

Artistic Director Nike Imoru -- who will direct "Irma Vep," which is an anagram for guess what -- announces that those two actors will be Damon Mentzer (Inspecting Carol and Othello last season) and Christopher Bange, a professional clown and a member of the Possibilities, Imoru's Seattle theater troupe.

If the character transformations aren't as numerous in Irma Vep as in, say, Greater Tuna, they're quicker. Imoru reports that "one of the costume changes is accomplished in the space of one line."

Don't try quick changes like that at home, folks. These people are professionals. You? You'd only get tangled up in your underwear and fall over. Don't want an exhibition like that on a public stage.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Arsenic and Old Lace

Ignite! Community Theatre turns the key on its inaugural season with Joseph Kesselring's classic comedy on Oct. 7-8 at 8 pm, Oct. 9 at 2 pm, and Oct. 13-15 at 8 pm at the Cajun Room in the Rendezvous Events Facility, 1003 E. Trent Ave. in the spot formerly occupied by Fat Tuesday's.

Visit or call 993-6540.

Cast members include Kim Roberts as Abbey, Renae Meredith as Martha, Carrie Arrington as Elaine, Terry Canfield as Teddy, Jon Jordan as Mortimer, Lauren Bathurst as Jonathan, Barry Brathovde as Dr. Einstein, Jhon Goodwin as Officer O'Hara, Paul Spencer as Reverend Harper and Officer Klein, John Dorwin as Gibbs and Witherspoon, Steve Whitehead at Lt. Rooney and Rick Montgomery as Officer Brophy. Scott Finlayson directs; Lisa Caryl is doing the costumes.

Don't forget their stage makeup workshop on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 10 am-noon and their stage managing workshop on Oct. 15 at the same time. Cost: $25.

Monday, September 26, 2005

SCT and Junie B.

The Spokane Children's Theater production of the new musical version of Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business has quite an array of local talent:

as Junie B., Danielle Read (the always-crying Ermengarde in the Civic's Hello, Dolly!)
as That Grace, Nicole Hicks (The Colored Museum at the Civic's Studio)
as Lucille, Tami Knoell (Miss Sarah Brown in the Civic's Guys and Dolls)
as Meanie Jim and Grandpa Miller, Tony Caprile (several shows at CenterStage)
as Crybaby William and the Boss of the School, Jamie Flanery (the arrogant British writer in You Say Tomatoes at Interplayers)
and, as "Mrs." and Grandma Miller, Sarah Miller (Anton in Show Business at Interplayers)

Visit or call 328-4886.

Shows on Oct. 8-23 -- Saturdays at 10 am and 1 pm, Sundays at 1 pm (on Oct. 16 only, also at 4 pm)

at SCC

Tickets: $6-$7

AA's APS on B'way first

Absurd Person Singular, Alan Ayckbourn's 1973 comedy "about three couples, three kitchens and three successive Christmas Eves," has been in previews on Broadway since Thursday and opens officially on Oct. 18.

Spokane will have to wait until Nov. 25, when Actor's Rep will open its production (slated to run until Dec. 10; directed by Chad Henry).

The Biltmore Theater production in New York will feature Mireille Enos (Honey in last season's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in NYC), Clea Lewis, Sam Robards (the son of Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards Jr.), Alan Ruck, Deborah Rush and Paxton Whitehead ("Claudia Jean, you are a freakishly tall woman" on The West Wing).

Sunday, September 25, 2005

ARt fund-raiser at Glover Mansion

Michael Weaver announced last night that his Actor's Rep Theatre will hold a Halloween party fund-raiser on Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Glover Mansion.
Ooh, ahh went the crowd.
Six-course dinner, prizes and dancing.
More oohs and ahhs.
Tickets are $75 per person -- distinctly fewer ooh-ahhs -- or $140 a couple, "which is a really good deal," said Weaver.
Couldn't there be a $25 option, and I just get an appetizer?

opening-night review of Mrs. Warren’s Profession

at ARt through Oct. 8

What used to be shocking about Mrs. Warren’s Profession was the idea that women could be prostitutes and that actors could openly perform a play about them.
That was 1893; this is now. But if the sexual angle fails to shock anymore, what should still sting the conscience is that even now, 112 years later, we still haven’t done nearly enough about the core problem that Shaw set out to confront: that poor women, reduced to the lowest poverty, have little alternative but to subsist by selling themselves.
Desperate women fucking johns to make a living isn’t immoral, Shaw suggests (in unexceptionable language); the immorality lies in those same johns, who don’t leave girls much choice, then continue to exploit them and, even worse, condemn them in moralistic terms for lack of character.
I’ll show you some immoral characters, the playwright says --- and they wear the latest fashions and work in fine buildings and smile, smile above their well-fed bellies. They can afford moral categories. Some people can’t afford their next meal.
We sometimes think of Shaw as a fusty Victorian -- all that talk, talk and not much to look at onstage.
But Shaw turns out to have been the Angry Young Man of the 1890s -- and his moral fervor is capable of burning us even now, right where we sit.
The people sitting in the mostly full opening-night audience at ARt’s second show (through Oct. 8) were feeling the heat or something, because they were noticeably quiet. During a debate-play that’s fortunately filled with a lot of emotional reversals and revelations, they were listening -- noiselessly, intently -- to the debates Mrs. Warren has with her daughter.
A century ago -- and even today -- folks might expect a scene about a young woman discovering that her mother is a big-time madam to end with the mother’s tearful self-recrimination and the daughter’s moral disgust. Shaw’s having none of that: His scene ends with a mother-daughter reunion, with the assertion that even whores love their children -- as much as the rest of us, in fact. Shaw’s play even suggests that using such a term in itself betrays our misunderstanding of economic realities: Prostitutes sell what’s available to them. They market what they do best. Are they really so different in that from the rest of us?
In the title role, Karen Nelsen commands the stage -- bossing her daughter, instinctively cajoling men who might do something for her, raging when her daughter behaves incomprehensibly. Nelsen’s righteous indignation in the tirades Shaw wrote for her character in Act 2 and Act 4 -- both aimed at moralists who ignore economic realities en route to condemning prostitutes and feeling much better about themselves afterward for having done it -- was gripping. In a half-dozen Spokane performances by this talented actress, this is her finest achievement -- ingratiating, insecure, angry.
As for Caryn Hoaglund’s Vivie Warren, I felt sure she could project the unconventional self-assurance of the first act’s Modern Young Woman. But could she pull off her character’s oscillation between rejection and acceptance of her mother? Hoaglund can be self-assertive, sure -- but could she pull off the moral outrage?
With Nelsen’s help, she did. And that’s not a swipe at Hoaglund’s talent; it’s intended as a compliment to how well this mother and daughter pair, never emotionally close, overflow with revelations in the fourth-act confrontation -- and work as a team doing it. They’re the wolverine and the cobra, circling each other, wary, using their fine Victorian gowns to conceal the claws underneath.
As Vivie’s love interest, Frank, Jon Lutyens injects plenty of mischievous energy and boyish, prankish fun. But his character can gamble, brandish a gun, smart off to his dad -- there’s an edginess of rebellion in Frank that Lutyens’ literate elf hasn’t yet captured.
Reed McColm contributes a family friend who stands for beauty and propriety -- getting past just that into genuine compassion in the final scene, when he takes his leave of Vivie.
Though he may be getting typecast locally as a self-satisfied John Bull type, Ron Ford finds the bluster and hypocrisy in this particular show’s English vicar.
There were some opening-night wobbles involving hesitant line deliveries -- with the usually dependable McColm dropping more than his share -- but those are conversational creases that will get ironed out. Renae Meredith sketches in a stark and restrained set -- I missed the potential in the two gardens for hints of pastoral escape from the ugly realities of big-city corruption.
Director Michael Weaver contributes a natural-seeming but pointed tableau for the first-act curtain line along with some interesting blocking (of the power-mongering kind) when Vivie has to fend off the advances of an unwelcome suitor, Sir George Crofts. Patrick Treadway creates real menace in the role of Mrs. Warren’s sleazy partner (even if Ron Ford, as the reverend, has more of the bulldog look that the script calls for). Treadway’s wealthy baronet demonstrates his ineffectualness (he can’t open a lawn chair) and his arrogance (muttering under his breath about how other’s concerns -- anything other than his own business -- is beneath him. Treadway succeeds in making Sir George and his petty vengefulness seem both dangerous and beneath concern; it’s a solid performance.
If you want intelligent drama, full of unexpected reversals and wise talk, then you’ll sit for two and a half hours just as intently and quietly as the opening night crowd did. Often, playgoers go to Mrs. Warren because they vaguely remember that it’s about prostitution -- a whiff of something scandalous in the air. But that cigarette Vivie lights up in Act 4 isn’t just some symbol of facile Virginia Slims feminism; it’s a sign that Shaw wants to light a fire under your seat. He wants social action, and he wants it now. ARt’s Mrs. Warren is the kind of production that will keep you rooted to your seat during the show itself and scratching your head thoughtfully afterward.

Friday, September 23, 2005

second (or third) time through The Second Coming

Nunsense II opens at CenterStage on Oct. 7.

Kathie Doyle-Lipe will be playing Sister Mary Hubert, Mistress of Novices this time, she says, "because I'm a little old to be playing the novice [Sister Mary Leo] and be rollerskating in."

Doyle-Lipe played Leo "about 15 years ago" at the Civic in a production that moved to the Met with Jean Hardie (as she will be once again) playing Sister Mary Regina, the dreaded and hilarious Mother Superior.

Hardie has performed in every incarnation of Nunsense that has ever played in Spokane -- the original and its three (four?) sequels.

So how are rehearsals going, Kathie?

"Really well. Troy [Nickerson] has been coming in kinda quietly one day a week -- because he's busy with My Fair Lady, you know -- so Jean and I are doing the rest for now. We're re-directing it. And it's going to be listed as 'Original choreography and direction as conceived by Troy Nickerson' -- or something like that."

what's central at CenterStage

"I'm really happy," says Tim Behrens. "Leslie [Grove] and I haven't been so relieved since we started this thing. Now we'll be able to get the right shows and really work with the actors -- so that even if the shows themselves aren't extraordinary, we can _make_ them extraordinary in the performances -- instead of just scrambling."

Behrens' enthusiasm derives from his First Avenue theater having received $70,000 in pledges. (But the money needs actually to roll in, folks -- Behrens reports that whereas CenterStage's accounts payable were over $40,000 before the recent we-just-might-close crisis, "it's less than $30,000 now.")
One anonymous donor provided a matching grant of $10K if the the theater could raise $30K, which of course it has exceeded.
"One guy pledged $35 a month for the rest of his natural life -- and he's about 50," says Behrens, chuckling.

In other developments, Kim Roberts and Kathie Doyle-Lipe have both joined CenterStage's artistic committee.

After Nunsense II (Oct. 7-Nov. 18), the month of December will be filled with corporate parties, with Behrens throwing in some of his Pat McManus shows at some of those private events.

The season's second show will open Jan. 19, with "three or four" shows still under consideration, including a musical revue entitled "Are We There Yet?"

Sometime next spring, CenterStage will follow up on its experiment of doing a non-musical play in the dinner theater format. Playwrights under consideration are Neil Simon and James McClure (Laundry and Bourbon, Lone Star).

And on Saturdays starting in February, CenterStage will initiate "Snack Theater for Children": sack lunches, short plays and puppet shows (a "Go Dog Go" script is under consideration for that).

With new executive director Tina Luerssen in place, Behrens doesn't have to concentrate on financial matters. "Tina's doing a great job. She's taken all this crap away from me -- from her point of view, it's not crap, but kind of interesting stuff -- and so Leslie can concentrate on ella's and musical direction, and I've gone from 15 hours a day to 14 and a half," says Behrens. Then he adds, laughing, "just enough time for a nap."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reaching out is catching on

On the same day that Interplayers announced that it was doing some outreach to the community, Bobo unexpectedly found himself sitting in the City Council chambers and listening to an artist of international renown talking about much the same thing.

During “Classical Chat” at City Hall last Thursday afternoon, Jean-Philippe Collard recounted his efforts to do classical outreach in small French towns -- sometimes several nights in the same village church, with just 200 in the audience and an opportunity for genuine discussion of the music before the concert and after.

If a world-class recording artist who has plunked the ivory keys with just about every major orchestra can pull into St. Etienne-sur-Loire (or wherever) for (he says) 10 consecutive nights (so as to bring down costs) and charge the equivalent of $12 or $15 for people to hear him close-up, then certainly local theaters can devise innovative ways to solve the problem of they-won't-come-to-us.

Well, bring it to them. Put on snippets of scenes in schools, at restaurants, at shopping malls, on street corners, at Auntie's Bookstore. (And now I'm naming what local theaters are, in fact, already doing.)

But we need to work at familiarizing potential audience members with our playing spaces, too. People go where they feel comfortable; they tend to stay away from places they don't know.

I remember Jack Phillips telling me about longtime subscribers at the Civic who had no idea where the Firth J. Chew Studio Theater was.

Once shown, they actually took in a show or two. And liked 'em.

When Bobo taught at NIC in CdA and taught plays like Sideman and Art so that students would go to Interplayers (for the first time) and see live theater (often, again, for the first time), what was interesting were the anxieties their questions revealed: Could we carpool? Was there any parking? What am I supposed to wear? Where is it, exactly (because I tend to get lost downtown)? So you go in and then you have to walk upstairs to get into the theater?

Once a carload of students had ventured forth and encouraging reports came in, then there was a bit less reluctance. And a handful of students (well, one or two) actually admitted to returning to the place the next semester (even when it wasn't academically required).

People go places where they're comfortable, where they know where they're headed. Is there a airport shuttle van service out there that theaters could coordinate with? (Meet us in Post Falls at such and such a time; we'll provide the hot dogs and a couple of actors to talk to on the ride in. Make it inviting for folks. Then they spread good word of mouth.) No doubt Interplayers is working on its 65-people-on-opening-night problem.

But arts marketing -- Kate Vanderwende dressing the runner statues across from City Hall in boxer shorts to advertise The Underpants, for example -- can work. And we have good people in town right now fighting the good fight on that front. Ferociously. And my alliteration in F has gotten out of control.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Shaw fusty? Shaw timely

The New York premiere of Mrs. Warren's Profession was on Oct. 30, 1905 -- one hundred years ago next month.

The New York Public Library is having a Shaw celebration which features, among other things, an Oct. 24 reading of the play starring Dana Ivey.

But Actor's Rep will have it earlier: Sept. 23-Oct. 8 at SFCC's Spartan Theatre, to be exact.

Read Ben Brantley's article at

-- courtesy of Michael Weaver (who is, of course, a completely disinterested party in this matter)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mrs. Warren and Sir George Crofts

MWP 10
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Mrs Warren's Profession, by George Bernard Shaw
Actor's Rep Theatre
Spokane, Wash.
opens Sept. 23, 2005, at Spokane Falls Community College
directed by Michael Weaver

Karen Nelsen as Mrs Warren, Patrick Treadway as Sir George Crofts

Vivie and Frank

Mrs W's Profession
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Caryn Hoaglund, Jon Lutyens

Mrs Warren's Profession: entire cast

Mrs W's Profession 3
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
left to right:
Reed McColm as Praed
Caryn Hoaglund as Vivie Warren
Ron Ford as Rev. Samuel Gardner
Karen Nelsen as Mrs. Warren
Jon Lutyens as Frank Gardner
Patrick Treadway as Sir George Crofts

Thursday, September 15, 2005

reaching out to high school students

Interplayers is now also offering discounted tickets to high schools students: $10 for the first show, $6 for any show later in the season.

And they're offering free tickets to one student from each local high school -- a student who will then turn around and write a review of an Interplayers show for his or her school paper.

Bobo met an LC student who was doing just that on opening night of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me -- and he (Bobo, that is) would be happy to meet with other student reviewers in the future, as on opening night for The Mystery of Irma Vep (Oct. 22) or The Fantasticks (Nov. 26). Since I _am_ a ho for all things theatrical (which probably makes the _parents_ of high school students want to steer their kids in the opposite of whatever direction I'm headed) ... nonetheless, I will continue to post reviews late on opening night, and I'd be happy talk with adolescent theater persons (we could talk about reviewing), or make presentations in classes (guaranteed non-boring stuff) ... etc.

Just a thought.

a play about prisoners, for prisoners

Interplayers' production of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, a 1992 drama based on the real-life experiences of Britons taken hostage by terrorists in Beirut in the early 1980s, was performed at Turner House, a federal facility in Spokane, on Sept. 13. Later this month, director Nike Imoru will lead post-performance discussions at the Kootenai County Juvenile Facility and (possibly, at a later date) at the Geiger Correctional Facility in Airway Heights.

One distinction, of course, has to do with innocence and guilt. The Brits were kidnapped and held for four and a half years in squalid conditions by terrorists. Presumably, the people held in the local jails were given due process and really are guilty of the crimes they were convicted for -- and they get three squares a day. Still, dealing with boredom, wondering about God, forging relationships with other prisoners, missing the simple routines of everyday life -- not to mention loved ones -- there are some commonalities.

Outreach programs like this one enrich inmates' lives and sharpen actors' perceptions (in this case, of what it's like to be locked up for long periods of time). As a theater community, I think we ought to devise and carry out as many outreach programs as we have energy for. If theater attendance is a concern - and it always is, virtually everywhere -- then if they're not coming to us, we ought to take it to them. Skeptics will say that the career petty criminal is not likely to become a season subscriber at Interplayers -- perhaps so, though Geiger is a minimum-security, white-collar-crime sort of place. And when Imoru leads her actors to where the kids are (Rogers High and other schools last spring for Othello, for example) or to the Kootenai Juvenile Facility, she's increasing the chances of some 16-year-old catching the theater bug early.

People like theater just fine; they just find it difficult to fit it into their schedule. We need to create a space for theater in their schedules for them.

Top marks to Interplayers for doing outreach like this.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

opening-night review of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

at Interplayers through Oct. 1

An American physician, an Irish journalist and a British professor, stuck in a room somewhere in the Middle East, each chained by the ankle, each fairly sure he may never get away alive from their unseen captors -- Frank McGuinness' Someone Who'll Watch Over Me has a stark and unforgiving premise. With no costumes, props or set to speak of, it's visually bleak, drawing us into the monotony of political prisoners shackled under bare light bulbs. With no background noise, we're as cut off from the outside world as these characters are.
And so Someone comes down entirely to dialogue and themes and acting -- there's nothing else for the audience to fasten upon. Director Nike Imoru's production (through Oct. 1 at Interplayers) captures many episodes of despair and hope and anger and silliness --and the closing moments of both acts are stunning -- but there are too many unconvincing exchanges early on for this to rate yet as a fully gripping production.
Just in the first scene, Michael Maher (as Edward, the Irishman) paces and complains about boredom without letting enough downtime transpire to convince us that he's really bored; in both his voice and his body language, Charles Gift (as Adam, the American) displays mere anger instead of the kind of despair that would make you think he just, might, do, anything. As a result, their characters' face-off (Irish vs. American, despair vs. hope) comes off as unconvincing. Like dogs chained just out of each other's reach, they can't really hit each other anyway. But we need to feel that they just might break out of those chains and hurt someone bad, right now. And we don't.
Maher has an unsettling, back-of-the-throat voice that garbles too many moments with the potential for resonance. Especially in Act One, he skips past emotional beats, rushing the dialogue until an expression of sadness or an outburst of sarcasm can fully register.
Of the three cast members, the best portrayal is by Bill Caisley as a professor of medieval literature and proud son of England. His closed-in, ineffectual gestures convey at first the prissy weakness of a man unsuited to a life without scones and a nice cup of tea, let alone the miseries of a hostage. Caisley's Michael fixates on the routine he was about when he was so rudely kidnapped by these Hezbollah men, or whoever they are -- and he makes the loss of one special dessert seem like the loss of everything that gives life value.
As you might expect from a play that has a jokey-sounding setup (An Englishman, an Irishman and a Yank are chained up inside a room, and the Irishman says ...), McGuinness is keen on exploring nationalistic stereotypes. As a Brit, Caisley movingly explores the disadvantages of maintaining the stiff upper lip: He shows us the effort it takes a man like Michael to break free of emotional constipation -- and the mixed rewards of making that breakthrough. Maher, while he paces aimlessly during some monologues and in general makes less use of expressive body language than his two cast mates, nevertheless has an uncanny way of outlining the compassion that breaks through his crusty Irishman's sarcastic hide. There are moments when Maher blurts out words of empathy when, just moments before, his Edward had been an unfeeling jerk; more of them would have sharpened the characterization.
There's a great curtain to Act One, though, that blends the recounting of a medieval tale with the singing of a church hymn to provide a hopeful note as we head into the comfort of cookies at intermission -- this, after having shared squalid circumstances for more than an hour with three hoping-not-to-be-hopeless souls trapped as political prisoners.
Similarly, there's a moment near the conclusion, a show of solidarity between prisoners, that takes one of the professor's historical anecdotes, redeploying it so that it ricochets with compassion among the prisoners and then shoots out into the audience, a symbol of what we might achieve, if only.
The overall effect of such moments of mastery, however -- along with several genuinely comic exchanges -- is that the script comes off better in this production than the acting itself generally does.
McGuinness is a master at making small changes resonate. Shifts in routine become losses. The men spin fantasies and talk on and on until the strain is too much and someone blurts out a blunt question like "When will they let us out of here?" -- and the ensuing silence becomes in itself, a damning answer. They're stuck in a room, they want out, they're scared -- so obvious, so difficult to own up to.
And it's here that McGuinness' play proves its relevance, even a dozen years past its premiere and well into our post-9/11 climate. The characters themselves complain about the injustice -- how could Hezbollah do this to us, to innocent men in the '80s? But the bigger-impact question, a dozen years into Someone's lifespan, is this: Will an American audience today, in the English/Irish/Yankee faces in Beirut, see reflections of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds unjustly accused and now holed up and forgotten in places like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? It is wrenching to see how much these three men miss their wives, their children, all the details of the lives from which they were ripped away.
But so it is with the "unlawful detainees," or at least the considerable numbers of them who did nothing unlawful. Yet we look away -- at them, at political prisoners of all stripes, everywhere.
McGuinness' play -- given an uneven production here -- circles back with relevance on our lives in another way, too. The three hostages in the play, it becomes clear, use their imaginations, their sense of humor, to survive brutal circumstances. It's existential: I make a joke, therefore I can endure. In the scenes, well played here, in which the three men "film" imaginary movies, playgoers might sense, with a start, that they're seeing reflections of themselves: It isn't a big step from a movie-within-a--play to the distraction of stepping outside this stage on which we play and escaping into a good theatrical performance for a couple of hours. Someone Who'll Watch Over Me will keep getting performed because, as Ella Fitzgerald's voice kept reminding us during the scene breaks, we're all just watching out, hoping against hope that someone out there -- God, loved ones, the quality of sheer human resilience -- is watching out for each one of us.

Friday, September 09, 2005

early photos from My Fair Lady rehearsals

Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Kendra Kimball as Eliza Doolittle and Tom Heppler as Henry Higgins in the Sept. 2005 production of My Fair Lady at Spokane Civic Theatre. Directed by Troy Nickerson; backdrop by Peter Hardie; costumes by Susan Berger and Jan Wanless

Higgins and Eliza

Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Eliza expostulates with the famous phoneticist.

My Fair Lady

Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Eliza's gown (peach? apricot? melon? cantaloupe?) is one of seven costume changes for Kendra Kimball in this show, which opens Sept. 30 at Spokane Civic Theatre.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pullman Civic Theatre

For more information on their upcoming shows, visit

Oct. 13-15 and Oct. 20-22, 2005 (all performances at 7:30 pm; tickets $10, but $12 at the door, Gladish Auditorium, Little Theater, Gladish Community and Cultural Center, Olsen St. entrance, 115 NW State St., Pullman, Wash. (509-334-8406):
Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden -- in which the mysterious Miss Madrigal, a governess, seems to be the only adult who can get through to a rebellious girl caught between her bickering mother and grandmother

PCT's 2006 season:

The King and I at WSU's Beasley Coliseum, March 17-19, 2006

Beauty and the Beast, July 28-30, 2006, also at Beasley

High Spirits (the musical version of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit), Oct. 19-28, 2006

The Homecoming (not Pinter but the Waltons), Nov. 30-Dec. 9, 2006

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

20 Questions with ...

As a means of introducing some folks who are active in the local theater scene -- and as part of what I hope will be a sporadic series of local theater profiles -- here's the first of Bobo's 20 Questions features. In this initial installment, we're highlighting the second-year artistic director of the Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, TRACEY VAUGHAN.

Vaughan, 32, was born and raised in CdA. She went to CdA High and has both a bachelor's degree and an MFA from the University of Idaho -- where her favorite theatrical experience was directing The Laramie Project in 2002. In July, Tracey married Brian, who's a long-distance truck driver.

1. What books are you currently reading?
I am rereading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

2. What's your first theater memory?
I was five years old in the church play - I played the lead Sam, the good Samaritan, and I had to sing a song about a coin!

3. What's the worst job you've ever had?
That would have to be working at Planet Hollywood as a server in Orlando, Florida. Imagine a two-hour wait in line for patrons from 5 pm until 11 pm. These were people who had been in the hot Florida sun attending Disney World all day with their kids. Oh, and one summer I worked there, the air conditioning was broken.

4. What's the most important thing you've changed your mind about?
Staying in the area where I am from - I always wanted to get away, but I am happiest in the Northwest.

5. Why is it assumed that if you're a theater person, you're politically liberal?
The people who assume that everyone in the arts are liberal folk also tend to see the world as black and white and like labels.

6. What's your favorite drug?
Wine is my "drug" of choice, I suppose!

7. You're at a dinner with a choreographer, a set designer, a costume designer and a lighting designer. You've never met any of them before. What questions do you ask?
I would ask questions to determine our artistic compatibility. The designer-director collaboration is pretty key to the success, at least visually, of a production. It's hard if you don't see eye-to-eye.

8. Who are the greatest American playwrights?
Kushner, Williams, Kaufman ...

9. What does the Average Joe in the street not understand about community theater?
That it takes a tremendous effort on all levels to mount a production.

10. What's under your bed?
Cat toys

11. What kind of audience behavior drives you nuts?
Candy wrappers

12. What's your idea of comfort food?

13. Which of your relatives is most like one of your friends? Why?
My brother, because we share similar interests and both are theater artists.

14. How is your life different since 9/11?
I'm more aware of national issues. I pay more attention to what is being said and done about everything.

15. The Inland Northwest has a four-season climate, but you've been given the power to make just one of the four seasons hold sway all year round. Which do you choose and why?
Fall - for the beautiful colors and for new beginnings

16. What play or musical has the American stage produced way too often, thank you very much?

17. What vice holds little or no appeal for you?
Use of hard drugs

18. Describe the last time you looked up something in an encyclopedia or dictionary and got lost browsing some other subject altogether.
I was looking on stuff for 9/11 for the play I'm directing, The Guys, and I got lost in all the info about New York in general

19. What part does exercise play in your life?
Minimal, right now -- I'm too busy. My husband and I like to take walks.

20. It's word association time!
turtles: pets -- I used to have them as pets.
chihuahuas: cute
NASCAR: stupid
opera: classy
Shakespeare: brilliant
Andrew Lloyd Webber: briilliant, again
directors: Spielberg
critics: [laughs} well, Michael Bowen
yoga: exercise -- I had a class in yoga once
sumo wrestling: [laughs] large
Gwyneth Paltrow: OK
Colin Farrell: Also OK. I'm not crazy about either one of them. I don't think he has much talent, really. But I'm looking forward to seeing her in Proof, which I just directed for Lake City.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

National Pastime "in dry dock"

Bryan Harnetiaux, playwright in residence at Spokane Civic Theatre, is setting aside the month of September for revising his Jackie Robinson/Branch Rickey play, fresh off a successful and extended run at the Fremont Centre Theatre in Pasadena, Calif. -- where it is under consideration for both an Ovation award (L.A.-area theater, both large and small) and an NAACP Image Award.

After turning in yet another revised script ("You'd think, after nine years, I'd have it figured out!") to Stamford Theatre Works in Stamford, Conn., Harnetiaux will be off to Manhattan for auditions in December before the show's February run in Connecticut.

competing Yorks

In case you're following David Casteal's performance schedule of Bryan Harnetiaux's play about William Clark's black slave of 200 years ago, here goes:

Sept. 10 at the Civic
Sept. 17-18 in Olympia
Sept. 24-25 in Joseph, Ore., as part of a Nez Perce tribal festival
Sept. 27 at the MAC in Spokane (for teachers only)

Oct. 2 in Clarkston, Wash.
Oct. 8 at the MAC, in connection with the David Thompson exhibit
Oct. 15 in the Tri-Cities

Dec. 2 in Vancouver, Wash.

The Clarkston and Kennewick performances coincide with visits by the National Parks Service's traveling semi-trailer filled with Lewis and Clark memorabilia, known as the Corps of Discovery II.


Turns out there's a competing theatrical York. According to Harnetiaux, one "Hassan Davis, a retired lawyer from Tennessee, is doing York, too -- but as a Living History kind of lecture, not as a theatrical play." Apparently Davis drew 425 people in April to _his_ York show at the Wilma Theater in Missoula.

On Oct. 1 in Clarkston, Davis will perform his show, with Casteal appearing the next day: duelling Yorks in Clarkston.

Friday, September 02, 2005

season ticket sales going well at ARt

On two nights of the current production of The Golden Age, report Michael Weaver and Grant Smith, every single single-ticket buyer in the audience went into the lobby at intermission and turned that single ticket into a season ticket -- with the result that, with the exception of a few folks who had been given comp tickets, everyone in the audience on those nights was a season subscriber. Or, as Weaver and Smith put it, "The house was fully subscribed for that night."

You get people into a theater, they like what they see, they make a commitment. Don't underestimate the willingness of people to support live theater -- yes, even here in The City Which Is Not Seattle or Portland.

Christina Lang cast as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday

The Garson Kanin comedy may not arrive until next April at ARt's Spartan Theatre space, but the crucial role of Billie Dawn will be performed by a woman who did an outstanding job as a blonde last season -- last year's Mae West in Dirty Blonde, and a veteran of about 10 shows over the last dozen years in Spokane, Christina Lang.
Michael Weaver will play Harry Brock -- the hulking, corrupt garbage magnate who arrives in Washington, D.C., to bribe a senator and get some favorable legislation passed. Problem is, Harry's dumb-blonde girlfriend might make him look bad in Washington's social circles. Lang will play Billie, who of course only _appears_ to have been born yesterday.

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me Pictures

Left to right, that's Charles Gift as Adam, Michael Maher as Edward, and William Caisley as Michael in Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, at Interplayers Sept. 8-Oct. 1.

Michael Maher as Edward, the angry Irish journalist; Bill Caisley as Michael, the British professor of Old and Middle English; and Charles Gift as Adam, the even-tempered American physician.

Nike Imoru directs the initial production of Interplayers' 25th season, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, opening on Sept. 8.

Michael Maher as Edward, Bill Caisley as Michael and Charles Gift as Adam (left to right) in Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Parroting the president of TCG

In his speech that often loops on local access cable channels, Ben Cameron, president of Theater Communications Group, cites three arguments in favor of increased theater attendance. (I'm probably going to garble them, but here goes, because the preceding post on Interplayers has me fired up, here on the virtual eve of The Inlander's Fall Arts Preview, which we're readying for Sept. 15.)

1. The economic multiplier effect. Local politicos and businesspeople should care about theaters and other local arts organizations, not simply because they add to vague notions of a city's "quality of life," or even because of all the Richard Florida creative class stuff about attracting the youngest, best and brightest.
But studies consistently show every dollar spent on a theater ticket brings six to eight dollars spent in the downtown core -- dinner, drinks, you name it.

2. Kids involved in the arts do better on their SATs, are more tolerant, do better in most life measures.

But Cameron points out that, while true, arguments 1 and 2 aren't the killer arguments for the maintenance of theater among us.

3. The lobster argument. Cameron has a long analogy about how some lobster fishermen in Maine continue to catch lobsters in small nets instead of huge trawling nets -- because it's more humane and safer and shows more pride in their craft.
The point: Theater will never be the movies. It won't make a gazillion dollars by appealing to mass audiences. Theater should revel in its suggestiveness (appealing to our imaginations, not splattering us with hyper-realistic special effects) and in its very inefficiency. Putting on the same show, over and over, 15 times to an audience of 200 is simply not as efficient as it would be to do it once to 3,000 people and have it over and done with.
But as actors will tell you, it's NOT the same show every night. And besides, theater people take the time to deliver a personal event, every night out. You're in the room, feeling the same emotions that Othello feels when he realizes that he's been fooled, that the woman he loves is dead, that he killed her, that he has betrayed himself.
(I know, I know, how depressing -- who wants to go through all that? Tragic catharsis is for another discussion.)

Of course it's easier to watch a movie -- in your jammies at home, or at the cineplex where the latest vaporize-the-aliens flick is being shown 12 times a day.
Theater takes time, is more expensive than a movie (though student tix aren't much higher) and you have to go there at a particular time (not just when it's convenient to you).
But local actors and directors need to do their best, because theatergoers are carving time out of their schedules because some teacher or parent once showed them that magic feeling when the lights go down and there are living, breathing actors up there onstage. Nike Imoru once gave me the shivers just recounting how excited she was the first time she met a real, live actor.
Despite the way some actors and directors around here probably feel about me because of this blog, I still feel the same way.
Shivers. Done right, theater is magical.
Inefficient, out of step with mass media, but still wonderful.
God bless it. We've got to keep it going strong.

Interplayers carries on

If you don't like how blogs like this one foment and spread mere rumors, then how about their ability to squelch incorrect rumors?

Bobo had been hearing that Interplayers was having financial difficulties, that the season was in danger, and worse.

But Interplayers' Executive Director Mary Ann McCurdy emerged from a board meeting this week to report today that "While we have had our problems, we want to assure our customers and subscribers that we are looking forward to a successful season, artistically and financially."

Referring to the financial straits that so many nonprofit arts organizations find themselves in, McCurdy said, "We've just got to be persistent. We have a revitalized board, and we've just this week started working with Jean Ager," a development consultant who, McCurdy reports, has acted as a consultant to half a dozen or more Spokane nonprofits.

The rumor had been that a bank had denied Interplayers' request for a loan using the theater's equity as collateral.

While not exactly denying that interpretation, McCurdy did say that "We are fortunate to own our own building and to have equity in it." She then reminded Bobo and others that there's a sign on the north side of the theater advertising its availability as a rental location for meetings, recitals and rehearsals -- the Bob and Joan Welch Auditorium, the Gellhorn Gallery, even the downstairs rehearsal area.

This _is_ Interplayers' silver anniversary season, after all. That's 25 years of building affection for the Howard Street theater among local theatergoers -- and a lot of people who would be willing to go to bat for a beloved local institution. McCurdy acknowledges that "we have had cash flow gaps, but we have put them behind us" -- and she's quick to remind folks that they are still selling season subscriptions. Interplayers is also entertaining offers of of corporate sponsorships of particular productions. (A ballpark figure for those runs in the $5,000 range, though, as McCurdy notes, "we have to be flexible.")

All of which, you might say, just amounts to another Local Arts Nonprofit Sings the Got-No-Money Blues. Just the same old same old crying wolf, you think?
But pause for a moment to think of the dangers of simply assuming that oh, somebody will take care of them. Arts orgs are always bemoaning a lack of funds. And short of a rujuvenated NEA and federally subsidized arts, it will always be thus.
But decisions are made by the people who show up. And it helps to show up -- at the turnstiles and when the arts hold out their hats.

Lake City Playhouse and the new CdA community center

Lake City's artistic director, Tracey Vaughan, is happy that the community theater she leads may have a place in the new community center funded by the McDonalds money of Roy Kroc's widow, Joan.
The following is all very preliminary, as the community center itself is only in the "pre-planning" stages. But it looks as if there might be a performance space of some kind in the center, that the Salvation Army would be a tenant, and that the combined influence of McDonalds and the Army would lead to a requirement that shows performed in the new space be child- and family-oriented.
All well and good, says Vaughan, but Lake City doesn't want to confine its mission exclusively to such fare. As it has for years, it would like to produce a variety of shows -- many of them suitable for kids, many of them aimed at a more mature audience.
The upshot is that Lake City will continue to reside in its present building -- perhaps (remember, this is all speculative) producing some family-friendly shows at the new community center (with completion of that building still far off) while still performing shows at its present home (and using its present space, originally built as an LDS church, as a rehearsal space as well).
The generosity of Joan Kroc and others in making new community gathering spots possible -- not just in CdA, but around the country -- is a great development. And it's great that some kind of performance space may be integrated into the design.