Monday, June 30, 2008

audition for *Oklahoma!*

Audition for Kathie Doyle-Lipe and Carolyn Jess in advance of the Civic's Sept. 26-Oct. 26 production.
Rehearsals to begin Aug. 11.
Auditions: Mon.-Tues., Aug. 4-5, at 6:30 pm; callbacks on Wed., Aug. 6
Needed: 20-30 actors, both women and men (ages 18-60)
Cold readings; wear comfortable clothing.

*La Cage aux Folles*

at Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre
on the campus of North Idaho College
June 27-July 12, 2008
book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman
directed and choreographed by Tralen Doler
musical direction by Max Mendez
set by Michael McGiveney
with Jerry Christakos as Albin (in red) and Les Cagelles

Albin and Les Cagelles

*La Cage aux Folles*
based on a play by Jean Poiret
at NIC's Shuler Performing Arts Center through 7/12/08
directed by Tralen Doler
with Jerry Christakos as Albin (right)

new C.A.D. at Interplayers

That's a Consulting Artistic Director.
That's the position to which Spokane Interplayers Ensemble has named Karen Kalensky (who appeared as Gloria in *Grace & Glorie* last season and who also directed *The Clean House* and *Oleanna*).
Interplayers' 2008-09 season is "soon to be released."
Kalensky will direct and act in the season premiere and also direct the season's second show.
Kalensky and her husband John Henry Whitaker (who appeared as the professor in *Oleanna*) will apparently remain L.A.-based but will be here in August to prepare for the opening of Interplayers' season.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

U.S. History Cycle at OSF

Bill Rauch really is shaking things up.
The word's been that the first-year A.D. at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has been making his mark by putting a non-Western play, The Clay Cart, for a long run on the indoor Bowmer stage and actually producing a non-Shakespearean work (well, Our Town, but still) on the outdoor Elizabethan Stage.
Two weeks ago, he announced that OSF — sort of on the model of Shakespeare's two interlocking tetralogies on medieval British history — has commissioned 37 plays over 10 years, to be called "American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle."
And some heavy hitters are involved.
Tony Taccone (A.D. at Berkeley Rep, and a truly exciting stage director (Bobo saw his Othello, Coriolanus and Pentecost in Ashland a dozen years ago) and Jonathan Moscone (A.D. at Cal Shakes) will collaborate on a play set in San Francisco in the '70s ... a play about the murder of the then mayor of S.F., George Moscone (Jonathan's father).

They plan 15 full productions at OSF (2010-19); the rest will be done as readings and workshops. Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Shakespeare & Co. in Mass. are also in on the project.
Playwrights include Lynn Nottage (Intimate Apparel, Crumbs from the Table of Joy), David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Yellow Face, Golden Child, Flower Drum Song,Aida, Tarzan), Naomi Wallace (One Flea Spare), Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle), Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, 365 Plays/365 Days, In the Blood; co-wrote screenplay for The Great Debaters; will direct Fences on Broadway next year), and Culture Clash, the site-specific Latino performance troupe (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, Herbert Siguenza).

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

coming up in Spokane-area theater

Opening in JUNE
Forever Plaid, June 26-July 27, Idaho Repertory Theatre, Moscow
La Cage aux Folles, June 27-July 12, CdA Summer Theater
The Nerd, June 28-July 29, Idaho Rep

Alexander and the Horrible ... Day, July 3-24, Idaho Rep
Brilliant Traces, July 4-19, Merc Playhouse, Twisp, Wash.
Twelfth Night, July 10-Aug. 1, Idaho Rep
Once Upon a Mattress, July 19-Aug. 2, CdA Summer Theater
Love Letters, July 31, Idaho Rep

Hate Mail, Aug. 1, Idaho Rep
Withercraft Manor, Aug. 7-15, Civic's Summer Performance Camp
Les Miserables, Aug. 9-23, CdA Summer Theater
Lettice and Lovage, Aug. 15-30, Merc Playhouse, Twisp, Wash.
The Importance of Being Earnest, Actors Rep, Aug. 22-Sept. 6

The Dining Room, Sept. 17-Oct. 4, Interplayers
Doubt, Sept. 19-Oct. 4, Actors Rep
Nunsense, Sept. 19-Oct. 11, Lake City Playhouse
Capitol Steps, Sept. 20, INB Center
Oklahoma! -- Sept. 26-Oct. 26, Spokane Civic Theatre

Phantom of the Opera, Oct. 8-25, INB Center
Exits and Entrances, Oct. 16-Nov. 1, Interplayers
Graceland & Never Swim Alone, Oct. 31-Nov. 23, Civic
Sweeney Todd: In Concert, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, Civic
A Few Good Men, Oct. 31-Nov. 15, Lake City Playhouse

The Foreigner, Nov. 19-23, EWU
Together Again for the First Time, Nov. 20-Dec. 7, Interplayers
A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Nov. 21-Dec. 20, Civic
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Nov. 28-29

A Reduced Christmas Carol, early December, Interplayers
Annie, Dec. 4-21, Lake City Playhouse
Relatively Speaking, Dec. 5-20, Actors Rep
The Color Purple, Dec. 10-14, INB Center

Fences (readers theater), Interplayers, Jan. 2009
Cowgirls, Jan. 29-Feb. 14, Interplayers
The Belle of Amherst, Feb. 26-March 14
Amadeus, March 4-8, 2009 @ EWU
Waiting for Godot, March 27-April 4, Interplayers
The Graduate (stage adaptation), April 22-May 9, 2009, Interplayers
Three Days of Rain, May 13-17, 2009 @ EWU

auditions at Lake City Playhouse

Try out for shows at CdA's community theater.
All audition times are 6:30 pm at LCP.
Write or call (208) 667-1323.

July 7-8: Nunsense
Sept. 1-2: A Few Good Men
Sept. 29-30: Annie
Oct. 20-21: Little Shop of Horrors

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bobo's two Flickr accounts

The latter, which has fallen into disuse, has photos from a half-dozen shows in Spokane's 2007-08 season.
STILL waiting for The Inlander to get its Website up and running ...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

watch this NOW

Based on Charles Isherwood's post-Tony analysis (June 21; too much celebration of decade-old Disney shows; you're not going to drive the ratings up much, anyway, so get back to those emotional acceptance speeches that touch the hearts of people who really love theater and not just the tourists) ?_r=1&oref=slogin

... Bobo discovered this:

So, dahlings, you simply must Google or YouTube
Cubby Bernstein Xanadu Episode Six
right now!

Cheyenne Jackson and Nathan Lane and lots of semi-naked boys joking -- hilarious.
*Xanadu* may or may not be a "gay musical," but it's a gobble-gobble turkey either way.
BUT the Cubby Bernstein advertising campaign is delightful.
Sure beats the hell out of the Tony show itself.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

final list of nominees for the 2007-08 Spokies

The Spokane-area theater award winners will be announced in *The Pacific Northwest Inlander* on Thursday, June 26.

Limited to four nominees per category (with three exceptions).
Some categories have fewer nominees.
In nine of the 19 categories, Bobo had five to eight nominees on his short list. Those categories include four of the six acting categories (featured actor, actor-musical, actress-play and actress-musical); three of the technical categories (choreography, set-play and costumes-musical); and two others (ensemble and local musical).
Apologies in advance for any misattributions or misspellings – and please post some comments helping out Bobo on some character names -- and perhaps other, missed details. (Not to mention all the “How could you possibly leave out X, Y and Z?!?” comments.)

Ross Cornell for Thoroughly Modern Millie, CdA Summer Theater
Troy Nickerson for Man of La Mancha, Civic
Roger Welch and Andrew Start for The Full Monty, CdA Summer Theater WINNER
Michael Wasileski for Kiss Me, Kate, CdA Summer Theater

Peter Hardie for South Pacific, Civic
David Baker for Man of La Mancha, Civic WINNER
David Baker for The Christmas Schooner, Civic

Michael McGiveney for Kiss Me, Kate, CST
Peter Hardie for South Pacific, Civic
David Baker for The Christmas Schooner, Civic WINNER
David Baker for Man of La Mancha, Civic

Peter Hardie for The Night of the Iguana, Civic
John Hofland for Rabbit Hole, Actors Repertory Theatre of the Inland Northwest WINNER
William Rosevear for The Rainmaker, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
Maynard Villers for Rounding Third, Interplayers

Susan Berger and Jan Wanless for The Christmas Schooner, Civic
Susan Berger and Jan Wanless for Man of La Mancha, Civic
Judith McGiveney for Kiss Me, Kate, CST WINNER

Dee Finan for Tour de Farce, CenterStage
Jessica Ray for Souvenir, Actors Rep WINNER
Jessica Ray for Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep

Kathie Doyle-Lipe as Nat in Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep
Caryn Hoaglund as Izzy in Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep
Marianne McLaughlin as Bloody Mary in South Pacific, Civic WINNER
Manuela Peters as Hannah Jelkes in The Night of the Iguana, Civic

Luke Barats as Barnett in Crimes of the Heart, Civic
Carter J. Davis as Jamie in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Actors Rep
Patrick McHenry-Kroetch as Tyler in Laughing Stock, Civic
Jimmy-James Pendleton as Jason in Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep
Jonathan Rau as Buddy "Keno" Walsh in The Full Monty, CST WINNER

Dennis Craig as the grandfather in The Christmas Schooner, Civic
Robby French as Jamie in The Last Five Years, Civic Studio
Patrick McHenry-Kroetch as Cervantes/Quijana/Quixote in Man of La Mancha, Civic WINNER
Michael Muzatko as Emile deBecque in South Pacific, Civic
Curt Olds as Pete in Pete ‘n’ Keely, Actors Rep

Tony Caprile as Don in Rounding Third, Interplayers
Patrick Treadway as the Professor in All the Great Books (abridged), Actors Rep WINNER
Michael Weaver as Howie in Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep

Olivia Brownlee in “Rodeo” and “Handler,” Talking With, CenterStage
Page Byers as Becca in Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep
Piper Gunnarson as Carol in Oleanna, Interplayers
Karen Nelsen as Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Actors Rep WINNER
Kelly Quinnett as Lizzie in The Rainmaker, Interplayers

Krystle Armstrong as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie, CST
Abbey Crawford as Keely in Pete ‘n’ Keely, Actors Rep WINNER
Andrea Dawson as Cathy in The Last Five Years, Civic
Tami Knoell as Aldonza/Dulcinea, Man of La Mancha, Civic

Tralen Doler for Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep WINNER
Ellen Crawford for Grace & Glorie, Interplayers
Todd Jasmin for The Rainmaker, Interplayers and Lake City Playhouse
Maynard Villers for Rounding Third, Interplayers

Maria Caprile for The Christmas Schooner, Civic
Yvonne A.K. Johnson for The Last Five Years, Civic
Troy Nickerson for Man of La Mancha, Civic
Michael Weaver for Pete ‘n’ Keely, Actors Rep
Roger Welch for The Full Monty, CST WINNER

All the Great Books (abridged), Actors Rep
Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep WINNER
Man of La Mancha, Civic
Crimes of the Heart, Civic

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels WINNER
High School Musical
The Wedding Singer

The Full Monty, CST WINNER
The Last Five Years, Civic
Man of La Mancha, Civic
Pete ‘n’ Keely, Actors Rep

Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Actors Rep
The Night of the Iguana, Civic
Rabbit Hole, Actors Rep WINNER

All the Great Books (abridged), Actors Rep WINNER
Laughing Stock, Civic
Tour de Farce, CenterStage

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Friday, June 20, 2008

LCHS wins two statewide awards

5th Avenue High School Music Awards
announced on June 9 at Seattle's Benaroya Hall
78 high schools from across Washington state were entered
two Spokane schools received nominations
St. George's School was nominated for
Outstanding Music Direction, Lighting Design and Stage Crew for their production of *Footloose,*directed by Jean Hardie

The Lewis and Clark production of *Miss Saigon,* directed by Greg Pschirrer, got seven nominations:
Outstanding Musical Production, Direction, Choreography, Scenic Design, Lighting Design, Leading Actress and Supporting Actor
and earned two wins: Best Lighting Design and Mia Yoshida as Kim for Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role

and congratulations to all!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cheyenne in short-shorts

Bobo has never met Cheyenne Jackson or even seen him onstage. (Maybe we're doppelgangers, or in parallel universes or something.) That's Bobo's loss, because Jackson clearly had talent to spare during Sunday's Tony broadcast.
Those eyes! That voice! Those thighs! That %^&$!#?! turkey of a show that he was stuck in!
*Xanadu* looks only marginally better than the disaster-movie it evolved from. Your heart just sank -- what could this muscular (and muscular-voiced) chap do with, you know, REAL material?
Other observations:
Mark Rylance's non-sequitur poem didn't really work. But points for effort: He did better than all those boring people who READ long lists of thank-yous.
I enjoyed Whoopi's self-spoofs, inserting herself into classic musicals. But why did we open with five minutes of Lion King -- and that ridiculous *Little Mermaid* snippet with the woman in the ridiculous costume? Clearly Disney has commercialized it, and musicals chip in to get at least some coverage in what amounts to one long advertorial for Broadway.
And why do we get 20 people cavorting in *Cry-Baby* but we can't get the five men in *The Seafarer*? In an age of free-download music, theater is harming its precarious self by refusing to give away some free content as teasers. (Is five minutes of a single straight, non-musical play too much to ask?)
At least Tracy Letts let 'em have it in his acceptance speech.

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collect audience questionnaire responses

Greta Scacchi has an idea for how legit plays can fight back against the dominance of musicals in the West End: Leave questionnaires on the seats for patrons to write answers to, then collect the responses on a Website.
Audience interaction: It's at the core of what theater can do and movies and DVDs can't. Theater, being live, has the potential to be a two-way street, with energy flowing both ways -- from stage to audience and then back again.

(belated) review of *All Shook Up*

through Saturday, June 21, at CdA Summer Theatre

In the middle of an evening of mindless fun, the first-act closing number in *All Shook Up* provides a touching moment. After all the unrequited love-longing has been set up — boy loves girl, girl loves another boy, but he loves yet another girl, and so on — singers appear, one after another, sharing Elvis’ love-ache, one line after another: “Wise men say / Only fools rush in / But I can’t help falling in love with you....” It’s a vision of communal loneliness, an assembly of yearning — and, as simply staged by director Roger Welch, quite beautiful. All we need — and want — is love.
A show like *All Shook Up* — a musical with songs that are all Elvis, all the time — has to past two jukebox-musical tests: How good is the story that’s wrapped around the songs? And wouldn’t you be better off just playing your old records?
Joe DiPietro’s book of the musical straddles the line between hokeyness and the kind of self-deprecating fun that undermines excessive sentimentality. There’s too much eye-rolling exposition (“Dad, you sure seem lonely ever since Mom died,” or some equally convenient explanation). Hokey it can be, but there’s also a lot of fun in all the self-mocking jokes that provide the next guitar-chord setup for a beloved Elvis song.
It can be disappointing, at least initially, to hear those opening chords and not hear the voice of the King himself. “Love Me Tender” as a duet? When “Hound Dog” is divided up among several singers, you’ve got too many people up there who ain’t never caught a rabbit and ain’t no friend of … ours?
Dane Stokinger isn’t going to make anybody forget Elvis, but who could ever do that? He isn’t attempting an impersonation anyway. But Stokinger does play to his strengths, which are physical comedy, “jiggily-wiggily” dance movements (he’s all pelvis!), and a great way with those quizzical, self-deprecating remarks. We miss Presley’s deep baritone on “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” but Stokinger’s higher, flightier voice fits in with his characterization of the macho roustabout who’s puzzled by this little town and its funny little men who act like women.
That’s because DiPietro (*Over the River and Through the Woods*) borrows plot elements from Shakespearean comedy: pairs of mismatched lovers chase one another through the night while women disguised as men implore their would-be boyfriends start their wooing right here and now.

To supplement the Elvis soundtrack, director Welch adds plenty of inventive staging. As Chad the roustabout, Stokinger arrives in town astride a motorcycle — in front of a clever back-projection of a rolling country road. There’s a visible quick change that transforms at least one bobby-soxer in this repressed burg from drab to ebullient, just like that. Provocative statutes in an art museum become even more provocative. There’s an interracial romance between a couple of swell kids (Jadd Davis and Melanie L. Gaskins) that’s played out, comic book-style, in a race between a bus and a bicycle. (The bicycle loses, but what’s gained is comedy that makes the seriousness of the anti-discrimination message stand out by contrast all the more.) When the Davis and Gaskins stand up for themselves in a world twisted by prejudice and sing “If I Can Dream,” the entire number becomes a plea for racial harmony. In a crowd of demonstrators behind a scrim, Welch even editorializes by inserting a Barack Obama campaign sign: “Change That We Can Believe In.” Yet he sets up the serious political message with a comic introduction: At the abandoned fairgrounds where everyone has escaped for just one night in 1955, Elvis/Chad pops up between the hand-holding teens, right there in the Tunnel of Love. Just before that, for “Devil in Disguise,” Welch had five angels loosen their robes to reveal another side of their personalities. Visual surprises like these help enliven the plot’s silly proceedings. Overall, the production lacks the kind of rambunctious joy that so many of the songs strive for: Despite the innocent post-war setting and plea for ethnic acceptance, Hairspray this is not. But in its best moments, CdA’s Elvis musical is more engaging than listening to Elvis records at home alone.
As the love interest who masquerades as a grease monkey just to get closer to Chad-on-a-motorcycle, Krystle Armstrong has plenty of spunk — enough to set up the closing image of a young woman who’s independent enough now to set out on the road with or without a man.
Supporting roles are solid. As the bar owner and local cynic, Deidra Grace shines when she steps up and belts “There’s Always Me.” As Dennis, the nerd who loves Natalie from a distance, Matt Wade gets the most out of his horn-rim glasses and slumped posture. He’s just excited enough to be named the Roustabout’s guitar-slinging sidekick that it makes sense later on when he loses Natalie but gains enough self-confidence to make Miss Sandra swoon over his love of poetry. As Miss Sandra, the only person with any sophistication in this dust-blown Midwestern town, Charissa Bertels makes it clear that she’s not about to fall for some motorcycle monkey in a black leather jacket. In “The Power of My Love,” Bertels plays the sexy siren as she corkscrews her knees into the ground, hands caressing her hips as she belts the tune and then makes a Mae West exit.
Chris Thompson’s 11-piece orchestra provides the appropriate sax riffs and guitar-strumming intros, while Cammie Hendry’s choreography sticks to the doo-wop basics: fingers splayed, shoulders shimmied, girls rolled over backs and flung between the male dancers’ legs.
There’s still the problem, however, of al those Elvis songs being danced and sung without Elvis. When 20 people start crooning in “Heartbreak Hotel” about how lonely they are, you wonder why all these characters don’t just starting looking around, right next to them, for companions.
Then again, by the evening’s end, several of them have succeeded nicely. In fact, by the end of *All Shook Up,* so many couples are pairing off, it’s like a convention of rabbits. Elvis always did have that kind of effect on people.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

revisiting La Mancha

This is a very good show, and Bobo was wrong about it.
Not a perfect show, and Bobo still doesn't feel that ALL his criticisms were invalid. But the Civic's *Man of La Mancha* is a very good show.
Start with Patrick's performance: exceptional. Incredible. It was a real treat to see this show nearly four weeks after it opened, as opposed to on opening night. Like any show, it has grown and gotten better. I was struck by how well Patrick was _acting_ his way through "The Impossible Dream." He had the pipes when he needed them for the rousing finish, but before that, he was enacting the doubts and self-inspiration of the lyrics, making it a miniature drama all of its own. He's differentiating Cervantes/Quijana/Quixote even better than he was at first. It's a phenomenal performance. In the death scene, with Aldonza pleading with him and finally declaring herself to be, indeed, Dulcinea, I felt like I was watching one of the great moments in the history of Spokane Civic Theatre unfold.

I realized while watching last night was that much of the too-light tone I object to in this show has to do with Dale Wasserman's book of the musical and not Troy Nickerson's direction of it. Having said that, in my (one person's) opinion, Troy should have toned down the silliness considerably more, because some sequences cheapened what was often a profoundly moving show.
"I'm Only Thinking of Him" takes way too long to characterize the skeptic and his fiancee, the padre and the Housekeeper. As written, it's too long and cutesy. The slapstick "victory" by sheer luck of DQ and Sancho and Aldonza over the muleteers, as written, is silly.
Maybe it's a generational thing: What seemed like necessary "comic relief" in 1965 (a bogus theory: people can handle sadness just fine, and it's not as if every bit of bad news has to be carefully prepared for with a bit of I Love Lucy comedy)just comes off as condescending high jinks now.
"The Moorish Dance" (the gypsies): as written, a silly dance break that repeats what we already know, that DQ can idealize even the most venal and base aspects of human behavior. It's as if Wasserman didn't trust his audience. In terms of mood, I guess I just want more grand opera and less of music-hall comedy in my *La Mancha*s; it's just a matter of personal preference.

It's a matter of tone, and getting the tragicomic balance right is extremely difficult to do.
I felt that the Studio production of *Crimes of the Heart* overcompensated for past jokey productions by making this one too somber, missing too much of the comedy and really missing the black comedy (getting us to step outside anguished moments to realize that from another perspective, they're not heart-rending but absurd). A lot of people disagreed with me on that. Here, almost the reverse is true. Ideally, I would preferred to have seen Troy's direction minimized the slapstick, ha-ha aspects of the musical's book and favor instead, at more junctures, its darker, costs-of-idealism features. In a sense, I think Cervantes is trying to say that Dr. Carrasco-style realism and practicality has its own costs: unpoetic, unromantic, self-limiting, we're all just maggots crawling upon this muckheap of Earth (a viewpoint that Aldonza, of course, expresses and then repudiates -- because she GROWS). But similarly, as Wasserman's book goes overboard in emphasizing (because it's good for a joke), Quixote-style idealism is blind -- it selects what it wants to see. That's part of why Patrick's delivery of the "men have died in my arms" speech is so affecting and solid: it's the idealist declaring that his idealism is grounded in a gimlet-eyed view of how cruel and awful life can be.

But there's so much to admire in this show. I would listen to David Williams sing anywhere: his clear, sweet tenor voice as the Padre was quite affecting and effective in both the Act One closer, "To Each His Dulcinea" and in "The Psalm." I meant even back when I wrote my review to spend more time praising his talent.
The rape scene SEEMED to me (I'm probably wrong) to have added a couple of brief and more graphic moves; I thought it balanced moral ugliness + artistry very well. Patrick's pronoucement that the dishrag is "gossamer"; the timing of two of his and Tami's sudden face-to-face encounters; the way she clings to her missive and asks about the "quest" -- all were spine-tingling moments. In its first appearance, "Little Bird" seems to be motivated by ... what, exactly? It comes out of nowhere. BUT ... its reoccurence during the rape sequence is haunting. Troy created numerous memorable episodes like this.

I still think two or three of the performances were well short of ideal, and, as I said, I think the book is deficient in yukking it up too much. As for the Patrick > Robert Goulet line: I never saw Goulet in the part. But I associate him with phoniness and hamminess. Patrick never fell into that trap, and soared well above it. His performance, and most of this show, should be remembered with pride for years to come.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Impossible Scream

"*Man of La Mancha* was BRILLIANT, and Bowen HATED it."
We figured he'd love it, and he didn't. He wrote The Impossible ... [scream]."

1. We tend (all of us, me included) to think in blacks and whites (extremes) like this. But my review (back on about May 24) wasn't entirely negative.
I even did a word count: As published in The Inlander, it had ...
230 words in sentences that were neutral or factual
340 words in sentences that were positive (praising)
350 negative
In other words, it was a mixed review, not a completely negative one.

2. Troy Nickerson is an exceptionally talented director, choreographer and actor. He's a Spokane theatrical treasure. We are lucky to have him. People like Troy and Michael Weaver and Nike Imoru (and I could name several others) are the kind of directors who make theater run in this city. I feel honored to know them. They inspire great affection in those who work with them.
(And Troy had better things to go than field phone calls about my stupid suicide "threat." I apologized to him then, and I apologize again now. I'm really sorry that I upset him and everyone else.)
But does that mean that Troy's directing choices can never be disagreed with? No.
(I haven't reread my review in the last two weeks. I'm going again tonight. Clearly, I'm in a minority in my opinion of the show. Too many actors whose opinions I respect have told me that they think very highly of this production.
I don't think I'm going to change MOST of my opinions about this show. But it seems like an opportunity not to be missed -- go see a show for a second time, and late in the run.)

3. One of the most perceptive comments in the flurry of anti-Bowen posts right after my La Mancha review suggested, all too briefly, that my insistence that the reality/illusion theme should be treated seriously in production is itself undermined by the fact that the prison inmates lead a dreary existence and are putting on a play to amuse and divert themselves.
I've seen this show twice (at Calif. community theaters, 20 years ago and more) and of course the movie.
This is (probably overall, certainly in many particular sections) the best of the four versions I've seen. Maybe I was too harsh on it. Anyway, I hadn't thought of that -- a critical blind spot, that the inset play is supposed to be funny ha-ha -- and so I'm eager to re-evaluate that aspect tonight. Not to mention Patrick's performance and Troy's staging and David's set and much, much else.

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the 2007-08 Spokies

Theater awards, published in The Inlander, pushed back to our June 26 issue. (We moved around some cover stories, and that has an effect on the rest of the paper's content.)
Very tentatively -- no guarantees -- we're working on developing a logo for the awards (to go on certificates this year, to the winners) and then perhaps trophies for the following year, and an awards event of some kind for the year following.
Actors and directors deserve to be honored....
But, Bobo asks, what to do with the following dilemma? The Spokies are just one guy's opinion. Kershner's under orders (apparently) not to join forces with the critic from that OTHER newspaper in town. As for Bobo's experiment with canvassing local theatergoers: OK, but a sense that their opinions were interesting but didn't matter as much, and what did the newspaper critic think? Besides, too many people have a dog in this hunt; and it's too small a town. Those MOST involved with theater here often don't have time to go see ANY (much less MANY) shows done at other theaters locally; and of course there's the recusal/he's prejudiced, just voted for his own people concern. So it comes down to me, as somebody who's paid to see a lot of (but by no means ALL) of local theater. And then after La Mancha (which I'm going to go see again tonight) even more people than before are saying that they discount the opinions of that Bowen jerk.
Which actually is OK: keep the anger, keep the fervor. The theater's absolutely dead (it only always seems to be dying) when people stop caring, stop getting all riled up over it. Several people have told me that they often/usually/always disagree with my critical assessments.
As well they should. I just get to be a sort of verbose launching pad for discussions about theater around here. What really, really matters is what gets said and done around here in theater AFTER Bobo has had his little say. (And long before it -- I mean, look at all the work that goes into any show long before any ticket buyers see it performed). I've always thought of real estate agents as parasites (what do they produce, what value do they actually add? just unnecessary complications of our financial system -- and of course I'm exaggerating to make a point) but critics are certainly parasites in the theatrical universe, too, the passive-aggressive jerks.
SO ... sorry to ramble ... any suggestions? We want to continue publishing annual awards. Theaters cite them in their promotional stuff; Bobo gets messages about how blind he is, and how could he have liked Performance A better than that piece-of-crap Performance B? So, in some small sense, they're worth doing. But ideally, they'd have certificates and trophies and an awards dinner and MORE JUDGES. What to do? Our lines are open ...

still in the cage

Lessons from doing The Zoo Story
Bobo and Brian Russo were asked by Tom Davis of the Peaceful Valley community to perform the play one last time (we did four performances at Empyrean in late April) -- only this time, in an actual outdoor city park:
Saturday, June 21, at 7:30 pm, at Glover Field, outside where the marmots roam just east of the Peaceful Valley Community Center (which is itself below and just east of the Maple St. Bridge) Five bucks; cash only. Outdoors. We're apparently going to be miked, because of the rushing-river noise. We'll literally have to sweep up all the marmot shit out of the playing area in order to be able to perform. The setting does have a Central Park in NYC vibe, which is suited to where Albee placed his 1959 play.

Bobo doesn't think he was very good in the role. (Way to keep that confidence up, going into one last performance!) I mean, I don't think I completely embarrassed myself, but I think I overreacted while listening to Brian's Jerry rant on and on. I was OK. The knifing scene and tragic ending came off better than I feared -- I really thought it was going to be just laughable and awful, and I _think_ we avoided that. (Not entirely sure.)
I learned how much effort it takes just to publicize a play. Making all the arragnements, putting up all the posters, hoping against hope that somebody, anybody will show up. (We were hoping for 4 x 25 = 100 paid playgoers; we got something like 26 + 20 + 32 + 63 on the four nights. Expecting to LOSE money on this venture, Bobo actually made some money on this gig. Does that make him a professional actor? Ha. Far from it.
I was reminded of all the work that goes into memorizing and blocking and re-blocking a show. Best of all, every time I felt like giving half-effort ("But my job is so demanding!"), I'd remind myself: People who act and volunteer at the Civic (and lots of other theaters in this region) have other jobs, too. They're tired. They still give it their all. Stop whining.
I discovered that varying reactions while listening onstage is really difficult. Jerry is the star; Peter (my part) is just the straight man. Since Brian was the director and the Gonzaga student who was supposed to videotape our performance blew it, we've never really seen ourselves. I'm not saying I was badly directed, or didn't get any direction. I'm just not very good.
But it's good for a critic occasionally (was Guys and Dolls at the Civic really six years ago?) to get out there and take a whack at doing what he so presumptuously criticizes all the time.
The need to practice with props, over and over, paying attention to every little detail even in the awareness that you are not in an earthshaking Broadway show, and does it really matter even a little bit in the grand scheme of things? Just another tiny pebble in the grand edifice of theater history.
The need to bring it every night, never knowing who's going to be out there: The "green room" at Empyrean was their food storage area, a concrete cell. Russo spent the half-hour before curtain every night pacing around, smacking himself, muttering his lines. Opening night, he comes out intense as hell, blew me off the stage. Second night, not quite as sweaty or with it, he goes up entirely at one point (remember, he's got a 15-minute "dog" speech, and that's only one of his long speeches), has to backtrack obviously, I can't figure out how to help him -- and that's the night Michael Weaver was there.
So much for getting a job at ARt.
I really have no idea who showed up. Some friends from work. My wife and daughter. Patrick and Heather McHenry-Kroetch and Abbey Crawford on closing night.
The constant self-berating: could have done this better, should have done that better. Ho-hum -- actors go through that all the time.
The anticlimactic let-down at the end: We put all that effort into it, and now it's not going to be duplicated, ever again, quite the same way (or at all). Welcome to the transience of theater: all the more to be treasured, because we are all wisps, going going gone.

Did going through all these difficulties make me a kinder and gentler critic? Not according to the adherents of Man of La Mancha. More on that in a moment. But Bobo is very much aware that there are dozens, hundreds of people in this town far more talented that he is at singing, dancing, acting, you name it. I'm in awe of the dedication and resolve on view on stages all around here. I often come out of plays thinking, How did she do that? I could never do that.
Disagree with me if you want, but don't think that I'm not a supporter of the Spokane theater scene.

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PFF informal review

At the final go-round of Playwrights Festival Forum at the Civic, Bobo learned a few things.
He learned that playwrights should not condescend to their audiences, or write one-joke plays that don't develop into anything significant -- and that asking $14 for an evening of playlets that are still rough around the edges is asking too much in a town that doesn't take to brand-new plays very much to begin with.
The quality wasn't high; the Civic didn't promote it enough; attendance was poor (though the 36 bodies there on Friday night were considerably more than reports Bobo had heard of the festival's opening weekend). Some observations:

DJ Edmiston's "Workshopping Shakespeare" contains the kernel of a good idea in its title, then remains at the predictable level. What if *Hamlet* had been over-analyzed to death? Edmiston is a talented actor and should keep writing plays, but this one is predictable from its very title. The "Hamlet" instead of "Cheeselet" joke was a groaner the first time; by the sixth time, it was seriously annoying. The premise connotes some sophisticated thinking: intense analysis of the greatest dramatist. Instead, we got cheap jokes.
Anthony Arnold's entry from Toronto, The Oracle and the Scribe, was bad Beckett, but a reasonably good imitation. A bossy old crone kept spouting pseudo-profundity to an infantile amanuensis in a baby's crib. The play rambled aimlessly, then ended with praise for the virtues of independence and self-determination. It mixed in jokes with all its portentous-sounding abstract nouns.
Will Gilman's Always felt sincere but too much like a Lifetime movie: a guy grieves his wife who died of cancer. Nice segues from the psychologist's sessions into scenes of playfulness between the two young lovers, and the post-death scene aroused sadness -- but also the feeling that we'd been manipulated.
Three of these six plays were predictable; three had interesting twists at the end. A mixed bag, then. Once a playwright comes up with an interesting premise, it's his or her job, even in a 15-minute play, to take us to some issue, debate or event that we didn't foresee at the outset. Matt Harget's 15 Minutes takes a schlub of a guy into and then out of rock-star fame inside of 15 minutes -- saw it coming all the way, but what makes a good one-liner story pitch ends up feeling belabored and over-extended in the 15 minutes of real time that it takes to unfold onstage. Same with Edmiston's and Gilman's plays: They don't go anywhere, don't develop.

Clearly the best play of the night (watch: PFF judges and voters will think otherwise) comes from the clearly most experienced playwright of the group, Bryan Harnetiaux. Antipasto opens with a waiter primping before customers arrive (why so fussy, David Hardie, if he's going to be inept and tardy later on?), and then a married couple upset at poor table placement in a fashionable restaurant. In the darkness just outside, a half-dozen homeless people lie in rags, like scuttling crabs at the bottom of the ocean. A few others join them. After much comic bickering, the woman brings them food. And then, in a great coup de theatre, she is enveloped by the swelling mass of homeless urchins and specters. (Bobo was sitting 12 feet away and still doesn't know how what happened, happened. Freaky.)
(I get the same feeling when I catch the bus downtown: Wealthy diners at Niko's, just the other side of the glass from the street kids and the whacked-out druggies waiting for the 49 bus to arrive, right there on the sidewalk outside. But what does Harnetiaux's ending MEAN as social commentary?)
Hosking's Con Science takes a trite setup -- an alcoholic having to decide a debate between an angel and a demon -- and gives it some interesting twists, both in plot and characterization.

Acting stars of the night, each in three roles: Max Nightser doing a slow burn as Shakespeare and genuinely grieved as the widower (though not as genuinely dumbfounded by the rock star dude's windfall as perhaps might have made it more persuasive). And Kari Severns as the cancer victim, a funny/bitchy restaurant customer, and a devilish con woman.
Nightser can do funny hauteur and was sometimes moving as the bereaved husband, so he's got range.
Severns is a beautiful comedian with a voice she can make squawk and yelp. Can she also stretch into dramatic roles?

If the Civic didn't have the courtesy beforehand to inform Bryan Harnetiaux and Sandy Hosking clearly that the demise of PFF was under consideration by its board, then H&H have every right to take their festival elsewhere and see if it can survive at all in another venue and without the Civic's backing. Hard to say if they'll be able to make a go of it. But the Civic has jettisoned ONE of its most distinctive features -- and the proof of that lies in its own promotional materials and press releases, which have routinely trumpeted the PFF as ONE of the most noteworthy ventures at the very-well-supported, exceptionally good community theater across Howard Street from the Arena.
The only play that Bobo really wanted to discuss afterward was Antipasto, so he didn't stay. But it's great that PFF has allowed for that kind of audience interaction. Opinions will vary; workshops do have their value.
Nice to see playwrights in the audience, stagehands scurrying, about 14 actors taking bows at the very end: people doing what they love, for nothing. Too bad they have less opportunity now to do it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

some very speculative Tony speculation

The NYT has an interactive Tony ballot, and apparently the producers of *Xanadu* have ordered up some ballot-stuffing.
It's a straw poll, of course, but it does offer some insights. Campbell Robertson's poll of two dozen actual Tony voters is probably much more accurate - and he comes up with some surprises or near-surprises: Paulo Szot for South Pacific; Passing Strange in an upset; Mark Rylance over Stewart and Fishburne; Bart Sher likely to win for director; Pinter's The Homecoming.
Of course, nobody knows anything.
Nobody knows anything.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Karen Kalensky's audition workshop, June 20-22

At Interplayers on Friday, June 20, from 6-10 pm (read two two-minute contrasting monologues, either chosen by you or assigned); Saturday from 2:30-5 pm (rehearse them); Sunday from 2-5 pm (perform them).

Among topics covered: crafting resumes, overcoming nervousness
Cost: $175

Classes for youth (ages 12-16) also offered on Saturday, June 21, from 10-11:30 am, and on Monday, June 23 (same time)
Cost: $80 for improv and audition games, scene play and more)

Call (818) 481-2244 or write

Kalensky is from Chicago and is a graduate of the Goodman School of Drama; she has a master's degree in theater arts from Cal State Long Beach. She has worked as a casting director for TV, film and theater. At Interplayers this past season, she acted in *Grace & Glorie* and directed both *The Clean House* and "Oleanna.*

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Con Science"

"Con Science"
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek
by Sandra Hosking
directed by Ron Ford
part of the 25th and final Playwrights Festival Forum at Spokane Civic Theatre
June 5-14, 2008
with Kari Severns as Demon, Jeff Bryan as Jack, and Ron Ford as Angel

"15 Minutes"

"15 Minutes"
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek
by Matt Harget
directed by Sandra Hosking
with Kim Hardy as Candy, Will Gilman as Sage, David Hardie as Nigel, and Max Nightser as Andy
June 2008
Spokane Civic Theatre

Playwrights Festival Forum

"Workshopping Shakespeare" by D.J. Edmiston; directed by Ron Ford
with Max Nightser as Shakespeare, Will Gilman as Actor, and Penny Lucas as Producer
Spokane Civic Theatre
June 5-14, 2008
25th Playwrights Festival Forum

Monday, June 02, 2008


Despite the discontinuation of the Playwrights Forum Festival, the Civic's two playwrights in residence, Bryan Harnetiaux and Sandra Hosking, will continue their association with the theater.
Executive Artistic Director Yvonne A.K. Johnson has announced that in September, Harnetiaux will direct a collaborative project with the Center for Justice, *The Exonerated* (the 2002 documentary play by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen about six real-life cases of people who were falsely convicted and lived on Death Row for years before being proven innocent).
Both Hosking and Harnetiaux, says Johnson, "will be assisting with the play preparation for AACTFest 2009," when Johnson's own production of *One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest* will be entered into state (and perhaps regional and national) competition.
Johnson adds that the two playwrights in residence will headline an event in spring 2009 that will perhaps take the place of PFF: "We will be hosting a 'Harnetiaux and Hosking' weekend, which will feature their work — and they will solicit new works that can be produced on a play-by-play basis at various levels, from reading stage versions to workshops to performances."

Pave the Way

Yvonne Johnson reports that the Civic's capital campaign is "currently nearing $400,000 in three years."
"'Pave the Way' is going extremely well as we prepare to redesign the front entrance of the theater," she says. "Additionally, this summer, we we will be completely renovating the green room for the actors, including new carpet, leather sofas, track lighting and an eating area. The Main Stage will see improved aisle lighting and new carpet, sound system improvements and modifications, and, in the concessions area and vestibule, new slate tile. Of course, we will also be throwing on a coat of paint here and there, as needed. We are also excited to start the summer programming off with the addition of a new full-time position, Director of Education."

*All Shook Up*

*All Shook Up*
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek
songs by Elvis Presley
book by Joe DiPietro
at CdA Summer Theatre, June 2008
directed by Roger Welch
photo taken inside the Fort Ground Tavern

Dane Stokinger as Chad

in *All Shook Up*
June 7-21-2008
Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre

Big plays

Charles Isherwood on the trend in Tony Award winners (The History Boys, The Coast of Utopia, August: Osage County) toward larger-cast dramas. The first two came from London's subsidized NT.
Not all American plays have to have casts of two.
Corporate underwriting? The collaborative model used by August Wilson? Co-productions by regional theaters? Solutions, or just pie-in-the-sky?
But then theater is ALWAYS in crisis, and yet theater has kept going for, oh, 2,500 years ...