Tuesday, June 30, 2009

*The Producers* at CdA, July 3-18

Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks

with Eric Hadley as Max Bialystock and Matt Wade as Leo Bloom
also with Jerry Christakos as Roger, Patrick Treadway as Franz, and Steven Dahlke as Carmen Ghia

IBDb entry here.

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Whatever Ulla wants, Ulla gets ...

The Producers
Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek
Max Bialystock (Eric James Hadley), left, Ulla (Jennifer Elise Davis) and Leo Bloom (Matt Wade) in Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre's production of Mel Brooks' "The Producers,* directed and choreographed by Tralen Doler

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

upcoming: Bobo's Broadway dreams

A guy can dream, can't he? Upcoming Broadway shows that Bobo would really like to see:

Superior Donuts, opens Oct. 1
Tracy Letts' play, from Steppenwolf, about an ex-hippie who owns a donut shop and the younger black man who pesters him

The Royal Family, opens Oct. 8
Rosemary Harris, Stephen Collins, John Glover and Tony Roberts in the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber comedy

John Stamos and Bill Irwin in Bye Bye Birdie, opens Oct. 15

Patrick Marber revises Strindberg in After Miss Julie, a Roundabout production opening Oct. 22

Sarah Ruhl's new play, In the Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play, opens Nov. 19

James Spader and Richard Thomas will appear in David Mamet's new play, Race, opening Dec. 6

sometime this fall:
Finian's Rainbow (by City Center Encores!)
Memphis (rock 'n' roll musical, with book by Joe DiPietro)
and Victor Garber in a Roundabout production of Noel Coward's Present Laughter

next year:
Bono and Julie Taymor team up for a Spidey musical: Spider-man, Turn Off the Dark, opening Feb. 18
Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in an Addams Family musical, April 8
Brian Dennehy in both Hughie and Krapp's Last Tape, April
Linda Lavin in Donald Margulies' Collected Stories, April

There are too many shows "In the Works" to list, but I gotta mention: a new musical based on John Milton's Paradise Lost (!); Brigadoon (a personal fave); Suzan-Lori Parks directing Fences; Joanna Murray-Smith's The Female of the Species, about a feminist author with writers' block; Jack O'Brien directing a musical about Houdini, with music by Danny Elfman and lyrics by David Yazbek; Trevor Nunn's A Little Night Music; a musical about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs called Nerds; Harry Connick Jr. and Joe DiPietro team up on Nice Work If You Can Get It, with Gershwin songs; Des McAnuff directing The Wiz; and many more.

Plus there are about a dozen shows on Broadway right now that I'd love to see.

ADDED July 1:
Jude Law as Hamlet, with Penelope Wilton as Gertrude, in a Donmar Warehouse production, opening Oct. 6 on Broadway -- and they're even going to perform, a la Richard Burton, at Elsinore Castle. See the slideshow: "To be or not to be" delivered in snowfall.

Also: Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles in Mamet's *Oleanna,* in a Mark Taper Forum production directed by Doug Hughes, will open Oct. 11 in New York

Friday, June 26, 2009

*Charlotte's Web* in Pullman, July 17-26

E.B. White's children's play, directed by Courtney Smith and presented at Pullman Civic Theater's Nye Street Theater (1220 NW Nye St., near Dissmore's and just south of NW Stadium Way) on
Friday-Saturday, July 17-18 at 7:30 pm
Thursday-Saturday, July 23-25, at 7:30 pm
Sundays, July 19 and July 26, at 2 pm
Visit www.pullmancivictheatre.org or call (509) 332-8406.
[ image: famousdeaddb.com ]

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The 2008-09 Spokies: Here are your nominees …

For shows that opened during June 2008-May 2009 and that Bobo actually saw.
Winners will be revealed in the July 2 Inlander.

Just this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced its decision to nominate 10 movies for Best Picture at Oscar time next February.
As the sole member of the Spokane Academy of Theatrical Arts and Numismatic-tossing (SATAN), Bobo feels inspired by that decision and has accordingly gone CRAAAZY, filling out some of the Spokie categories below with an unusually large number of nominees.

I know I’m the guy with the notepad who walks in the room and makes everybody nervous (or angry, or indifferent), but the Spokies — limited as they are, like peering at just one guy’s Oscar ballot — ought to celebrate what’s best about the theater season just concluded. People deserve to see their names listed. Why limit nominees arbitrarily?

Please write in listing all of Bobo’s egregious mistakes.

Outstanding Choreography
Tralen Doler for La Cage aux Folles, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater
Kathie Doyle-Lipe for Oklahoma!, Spokane Civic Theater
Jean Hardie for No, No, Nanette, Civic
Troy Nickerson and Cameron Lewis for A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Civic

Outstanding Lighting Design
David Baker for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Spokane Civic Theater
Peter Hardie for Godspell, Civic’s Studio
Justin Schmidt for Waiting for Godot, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
Joel Williamson for Les Miserables, CdA Summer Theater

Outstanding Set Design for a Musical
David Baker for A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Spokane Civic Theater
David Baker for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Civic
Peter Hardie for No, No, Nanette, Civic
Michael McGiveney for All Shook Up, CdA Summer Theater
Michael McGiveney for Les Miserables, CdA

Outstanding Set Design for a Play
David Baker for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Spokane Civic Theater
David Baker for Shakespeare in Hollywood, Civic

Outstanding Costume Design
Susan Berger and Jan Wanless for A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Civic
Judith McGiveney for Les Miserables, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater
Jan Wanless and Susan Berger for No, No, Nanette, Civic

Featured Actor in a Musical
Jadd Davis as the Minstrel in Once Upon a Mattress, CdA Summer Theater
Cameron Lewis as Will Parker in Oklahoma!, Spokane Civic Theater
Cameron Lewis as Billy Early (not Trainor) in No, No, Nanette, Civic
Tim Louma as Jacob in La Cage aux Folles, CdA
Gavin Smith as Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Civic
Robert Wamsley as Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Civic

Featured Actor in a Play
Damon Abdallah as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
Jamie Flanery as Max Reinhardt in Shakespeare in Hollywood, Spokane Civic Theater
Thomas Heppler as Dale Harding in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Civic
Thomas Stewart as Roger Wolders in Together Again for the First Time, Interplayers
Paul Villabrille as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Civic

Featured Actress in a Musical
Jean Hardie as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!, Spokane Civic Theater
Darcy Wright as Eponine in Les Miserables, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater

Featured Actress in a Play
Caryn Hoaglund-Trivett as Gwendolyn Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest, Actors Repertory Theater of the Inland Northwest
Karen Kalensky as Audrey in Together Again for the First Time, Interplayers
Anne Lillian Mitchell as Lydia in Shakespeare in Hollywood, Civic

Leading Actress in a Musical
Krystle Armstrong as Cosette in Les Miserables, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater
Krista Kubicek as Fantine in Les Miserables, CdA
Kat Ramsburg as Princess Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress, CdA

Leading Actor in a Play
Luke Barats as Frank in Never Swim Alone, Civic Studio
Kevin Connell as Bill Livingston in The Women of Lockerbie, Civic Studio
Carter J. Davis as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, Interplayers
George Green as Bill in Never Swim Alone, Civic Studio
George Green as Randall P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Civic
Jonn Jorgensen as Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, Interplayers
Jon Lutyens as Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest, Actors Rep
Reed McColm in multiple roles in The Dining Room, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
Damon C. Mentzer as Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, Actors Rep
Damon C. Mentzer as Oberon in Shakespeare in Hollywood, Civic

Leading Actor in a Musical
Jerry Christakos as Albin/”Zaza” in La Cage aux Folles, CdA Summer Theater
Robby French as Jesus in Godspell, Spokane Civic Theater
Jerry Sciarrio as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Civic
Douglas Webster as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, CdA

Leading Actress in a Play
Ashley Cooper as Rootie in Graceland, Spokane Civic’s Studio Theater
Ellen Crawford as Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
Karen Kalensky as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble

Outstanding Direction of a Play
Jack Bannon for Together Again for the First Time, Interplayers
Yvonne A.K. Johnson for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Spokane Civic Theater
Yvonne A.K. Johnson for Never Swim Alone, Civic’s Studio
Brooke Kiener for Museum, Whitworth
Christopher Schario for The Belle of Amherst, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble

Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Tralen Doler for La Cage aux Folles, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater
Rick Hornor for Urinetown, Gonzaga
Kirk Mouser for Les Miserables, CdA
Troy Nickerson for A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Spokane Civic Theater
Troy Nickerson for Godspell, Civic’s Studio
Diana Trotter for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Civic
Roger Welch for All Shook Up, CdA

Best Ensemble
Les Miserables, CdA Summer Theater
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Spokane Civic Theater
Together Again for the First Time, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble

Best Touring Musical
The Color Purple
Phantom of the Opera

Best Comedy
The Importance of Being Earnest, Actors Repertory Theater of the Inland Northwest
Shakespeare in Hollywood, Spokane Civic Theater
Together Again for the First Time, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble

Best Drama
The Belle of Amherst, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
Never Swim Alone, Spokane Civic’s Studio Theater
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Civic

Best Local Musical
All Shook Up, CdA Summer Theater
Cowgirls, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Spokane Civic Theater
Godspell, Civic
La Cage aux Folles, CdA
Les Misérables, CdA


Friday, June 19, 2009

Kate Whoriskey to Intiman

Misha Berson reports in the Seattle Times that Kate Whoriskey will act as co-artistic director with Bartlett Sher at the Intiman through 2010. Some interesting pros and cons in the comments.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Glass less than half full but could be construed as not completely leaking

OK, so the NEA has released the latest installment of its once-every-few-years assessment of the American appetite for the arts. And as you'd expect, the news is mostly dismal.
BUT ...
BUT ...
As a national average, 35 percent of American adults claim that, in the last 12 months, they had gone to an arts museum and/or attended an arts performance.

The combined population of Spokane and Kootenai counties right now is just about exactly 600,000.
Right around three-quarters of the population is 18 or older.

Based on census.gov, I'm calculating about 354,000 adults in Spokane County and about 105,000 in Kootenai County.
Do the math.
That's 160,000 adults in our two counties who say they attend arts events (at least with minimal frequency). (And no, I don't know about the numbers of hard-core, frequent arts attendees, and all the talk about how the same 3,000 people attend all the theater around here.)
Even if our arts attendance is well below national norms, say, 30 percent -- that's still 137,000 people in the two counties.

*The Inlander,* for example, is up to 49,000 for average weekly circulation -- we just did an even 50,000 for our tied-for-biggest-ever 128-page Summer Guide, so that's in the ballpark. (The industry standard, accounting for papers passed around doctors' offices, etc., is 2.2 readers per copy picked up. In a typical week, 5-6 percent of the copies we distribute are returned (not picked up). Round numbers, that's 46,000 copies read by just over 100,000 readers each week.) So generally, that confirms the size of the audience.
So buck up, local arts organization-promoting persons! That's tens of thousands of people out there who ARE disposed to hear your message.

What's more: Note the bit in the NEA report about how "arts consumption" on the Internet (so to speak) is growing.
Forty percent of ALL Net users use it to access, view, download art. Even if that's inflated -- it goes on to note that 20 percent of ALL Net users use it to view visual arts (paintings, sculptures, photographs).
That's a way lot of people who are hungry for art. They just like to view it while in their jammies.
But if you get them excited about it at home, they will put on some decent clothes and go out and witness the art that you have to offer.
Conclusion: arts orgs should be marketing on the Internet like crazy.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

*Nuncrackers* at Shuler Auditorium, Dec. 18-20

Following the success of *White Christmas* back when it was snowing around here, CdA Summer Theater is putting on its second Yuletide fund-raiser at NIC for two nights and a matinee. Visit cdasummertheatre.com.
Dan Goggin's musical makes "Nunsense" of Christmas. (Ha! Humor!) It's the third of five sequels to the original, which appeared in 1985. The Little Sisters of Hoboken decide to fund-raise by putting on a musical for their local public-access channel, leading to a spoof of Tchaikovsky's *Nutcracker* and to songs like "Jesus Was Born in Brooklyn."

[photo: Dan Goggin, from theaterbayarea.org]

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review of *Joseph/Dreamcoat* at CdA

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a pop-rock-country-disco-doo-wop-reggae hodgepodge. For no reason at all, Joseph's brothers pop up sometimes in cowboy hats, sometimes in berets. And sometimes they walk like an Egyptian.
But that's the childlike fun of a show illuminating the Genesis story of a son with a mystical air who is assumed to have been killed until he takes on the sins of his brothers, rises from the dead and is reunited with his father.
You’ve heard that story before? The Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater production (through June 27) reinvigorates it with a fresh staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. Because of engaging performances by Krystle Armstrong as the Narrator and Steven Booth in the title role — along with some find-the-comedy-wherever-he-can direction by Roger Welch, and backed by strong creative elements — the CdA Joseph is kicky good fun.
Two particular strengths are Michael Wasileksi's choreography and John Gallegos' lighting design.
Dancers tap and twirl and angle their elbows in vectors toward the sky. They change hands and do-si-do in a square dance. They form a wedding gantlet, do the Frug, and lift the lascivious Mrs. Potiphar right over Joseph’s cowering torso.
Meanwhile, disco bulbs flash and shafts of light enclose Joseph in a jail cell. There’s even a strobe effect for a goat sacrifice.
Welch’s direction seeks out the goofy bits in an already goofy musical. Snake puppets join Joseph when he’s thrown in a well, then make an unexpected appearance elsewhere onstage. A goat rolls out on wheels. Camels (one hump, two legs) skitter and sing.
It all helps speed along a brisk 40-minute first act. Best of all, Welch has borrowed 55 kids from the recent Christian Youth Theater-Spokane production of Joseph, seating them in bleachers flanking the action. So what if, at the top of Act Two, the kids in the choir couldn’t synchronize their cutesy knee-dips? They looked like happy little prairie dogs, and it only added to the fun.
So did Armstrong as the Narrator — engaging the kids in the Prologue, performing comic bits with sunglasses, mai-tais and a Bugs Bunny carrot. At a couple of junctures, Welch just isolates Armstrong in a spotlight and lets her voice reach out and caress the audience. Her warm, clear tone was worth showcasing.
For his part, Booth sells the goody-goody tactlessness of Joseph, who’s blind to the possibility that his brothers might not be his biggest fans. Booth appears earnest, almost all-American, while running around in what he calls his “little Egyptian skirt.” He can even look forbidding. And any doubts about his vocal range are dispersed at the end of “Close Every Door” when he belts out “For we have been promised / A land of our own.” It’s an engaging performance.

There are other highlights — the accompaniment of Steven Dahlke’s 11-piece orchestra, particularly during the French café mood of “Those Canaan Days,” and the way the jiggly hips of James Lane as Pharaoh Elvis seemed to do his thinking for him. But this Joseph isn’t flawless. As good as Gallegos’ lighting scheme usually is, at times actors strolled into dead spots. For some of Tim Rice’s rapid-fire lyrics, diction — and the sound system — faltered. Unlike the other-musical-genre songs, which got visual set-ups to prepare the transition, the reggae number (“Benjamin Calypso”) seemed to come out of nowhere.
But soon after, the automated disco lights swirl out over us, and we too become part of the mega-mix. When every door seems closed and all you’re hoping for is a better life, “Any Dream” indeed will do. Along with varying its musical genres, Coeur d’Alene’s Joseph presents a mishmash of moods from serious to silly. It’s Lord Webber’s cornucopia full o’ fun.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

A play on Twitter ... and in Hayden Lake

140: A Twitter Performance, by Jeremy Gable

Check out the tweets of Dane, 16; his best friend Nic, 18; his girlfriend Courtney, 17; and his stepmother Leslie, who's only 26 herself

continuing through August

Dane is such a loser, he actually likes Transformers.
These kids tweet one another when they're sitting in the same room.

Courtney has had the best line so far:
It sucks trying to find a good paying job in Idaho. Anybody know a non-crap job that doesn't pay minimum wage?

Note to verbose playwrights like, say, T.S. Eliot and Tony Kushner (Bobo's thinking of the opening monologue in Homebody/Kabul): Writing in 140-character chunks might impose some verbal restraint, you know?

[ map: from fishandgame.idaho.gov; also the site of a portion of the bike route in next weekend's CdA Ironman triathlon ]

Paul Hodgins' blog post for the OC Register is here.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

20 Questions with Tom Heppler (continued)

(Thomas Heppler, right, as Marcus Lycus, with Jerry Sciarrio as Pseudolus, in Diana Trotter's production at Spokane Civic Theater of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, May-June 2009)

Bobo: You get to take a semester course in one of the following: voice, set design, choreography, costume design or lighting design. Which do you choose, and why? What would you expect to learn?
Tom Heppler: Well, I can't dance 'cause I'm too white. Set design, I used to do. Voice, I don't really know. I mean, I took choir and that kind of thing. But I don't have an ear for it -- I just work really hard instead. God help me, singing is the hardest thing for me to master.

Bobo: Tell me a little about Harding in Cuckoo’s Nest. Your performance is wonderful. What discoveries about him have you made in rehearsal? How much has the part been cut for the one-hour competition version?

Tom Heppler: … and you have to come up with character choices that still work. But Harding was one of those great parts that I really wanted to do.

In Lonely Planet, the first time I walked out onstage and met Troy’s character — that was living the moment. That was really nice.

about not making it to regionals with Cuckoo’s Nest:
“You know, in the past, it was always, ‘Oh, Spokane wins all the time.’ So there was a lot of, ‘Oh, Spokane’s coming, so we’re not coming.’ But there you go, that’s the way it is.”
When we went to nationals with Assassins — to be totally objective [smiles], we should’ve been first. Crowns won, and it was a nice musical revue of gospel tunes. But there are about 10 criteria that the judges are supposed to evaluate you on, and whether or not the cuts are suitable is one of them. And we were the only one who made any cuts. Other productions were just of a single act, or scenes.”

What do you think to yourself just before you go onstage?
On opening nights, I always get very emotional, for I wish my parents were still around to see how I developed, how I ... [gets teary-eyed] ... completed stuff.
But talking about these things gets me all verklempt.
On other nights, I have my script, I look at my notes -- every night. I look at my script for I KNOW.
And I need my downtime. On show nights, I take a nap from 5:30-6:30 pm. Everyone at the Civic knows that I have to do that. They even have a special blanket for me.
You take a nap in the green room?
It's much nicer since they remodeled down there.
But failing that, I have to find a hole to hide in, a corner to stand in. People come up and want to talk, but I'm all, "Bye-bye, I need to focus here."

I’ve gathered half a dozen passages from reviews in which I’ve mentioned Tom Heppler. (This can be a scary process, for both of us. Frankly, I’d forgotten you were in, or directed, a couple of these shows. Also frankly: I cringe when I think of how kind and gracious you are in person, and how I’ve criticized you in print. We all love theater, and love to talk about it. Here’s a chance, admittedly rather awkward, years later, for you to tell off that damn critic and let him know what you really think. Or not.)

I Do! I Do!
at the Civic, May ’04
As Michael, the husband in this two-character show, Thomas Heppler was unburdening himself of his complaints against his middle-aged wife Agnes (played by Jan Neumann). He had just announced his opinion that women, when they approach their “matron station / Begin a certain process of deterioration.”
The audience – the women mostly, but not entirely – hollered and booed, discombobulating poor Heppler, who had to find his bearings and soldier on.
The show had just admitted, in effect, how stale, sexist and out of touch it is.

Rocket Man
at CenterStage, Feb. 2005:
As Donny, the focal character, Heppler is just wacky enough to be the guy who tosses out every last one of his possessions -- but we miss the desperation of a man who just ... might ... do anything to rid himself of disappointment.

as director of
Spinning Into Butter
by Rebecca Gilman, at the Civic’s Studio:
Still, during a hopeful phone call that concludes the play, director Thomas Heppler has chosen wisely: Even as she engages in some peacemaking, Utter stands awkwardly, ensnared by the telephone cord that coils around her.

My Fair Lady
at the Civic, Sept. ’05:
(after a long opening section about how wonderful Kendra Kimball and David Gigler were as Eliza Doolittle and her father, I included the following near the end)
… this Lady's second act sometimes fell flat. Heppler's portrayal of Higgins doesn't help. He has the fussiness, the devil-may-care single-mindedness of a British academic, but problems crop up in the first act in "I'm an Ordinary Man," when both the vocal and instrumental attacks on the chorus ("but put a woman in your life") were weak. On exit lines like "damn you!" and "let the hellcat freeze!" (both aimed at Eliza), Heppler wasn't convincing or irate enough.
Heppler doesn't quite catch the ambiguity of the medley of tunes (and emotions) that his character is supposed to express in among snippets of "You Did It" and "Without You" and the famous "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." The wavering -- will he surmount his own selfishness and grow in much the same way Eliza transformed herself? -- isn't quite there yet. But Heppler does achieve real pathos -- in his finest moment of the entire evening -- when, caught in that same spotlight, he makes the final refrain of "Accustomed to Her Face" feel like a breakthrough moment: At last, the confirmed bachelor isn't quite sure of just how confirmed he is.

, Civic Studio, Feb. ’07:
(in the midst of a near-rave, I singled you out for criticism)
Thomas Heppler’s Proprietor, like [Andrew] Ware-Lewis at times, isn’t projecting nearly enough vocally. A couple of dramatic ring-the-carnival-bell moments don’t register because Heppler seems hesitant.

Laughing Stock
, Jan. 2008 at the Civic:
Some portions of the evening, however, are slower and flatter. As the artistic director, Thomas Heppler has some cell-phone conversations with the theater's patroness that don't underline or time the jokes well.

at the Civic, Oct. ’08:
Thomas Heppler’s Persian peddler does delightful slow burns and comic double-takes.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
Jan. ’09 at the Civic:
As Harding, the leader of the wacked-out inmates, Thomas Heppler shines, showing off with his hands and his vocabulary (but ineffectually). In one sequence, Heppler makes the transition from trying to laugh off his sexual neurosis to angrily denouncing the woman who worsened it. (The audience simply laughed. But the pain was real.)

Tom Heppler: Sometimes I feel in your reviews, when you mention ARt or even Interplayers, you treat them as if they are of a different caliber. But all three, at least now, are community theaters. They don't offer Equity contracts, or only seldom. I've seen stuff at Interplayers or Actors Rep, and there seemed to be some more credibility given to them that is not justified in many ways. They're not LORT or regional theaters.

It's interesting to see what you say. But sometimes I'll go, "Oh, yeah, that's what he said. Well, screw it. It's what one guy thinks." But it's always interesting to see your comments vs. Jim's comments.
Civilians will always look at it from a pure entertainment point of view. I try not to see it from an actor's point of view.

I know from Troy's experience with Spokane Theatrical Group that theaters are hard to run. Because you're on your own, trying to get people on the board, to fund-raise. Everybody just wants to perform. The business of show business is a lot of work.
I rememember when Troy did Peter Pan at the Met, he couldn't get anybody to build the sets. So I said, "I'll do it." I built 'em in my backyard. And he came out and looked at 'em and said, "Son of a bitch, you did it."

When I'm directing, I always bring in non-theater people, just to get an opinion -- and it's always useful.

I've learned something new on every new show. Once you think you're good ...
But when I'm at an audition, and I see a reading that's a brilliant idea, I steal it, sure.

On My Fair Lady, Carol Miyamoto taught me that I didn't know what theater was. She said, "You will learn it and sing it as it was written. And then I will let you play with it." Well, that scared the hell out of me. But I learned it, note-perfect.
On "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," he grows to care for her, realizes that it's been more of a father-daughter relationship. He realizes that he's been an asshole. So I wanted it to be more heartfelt at the end.

Do you ever just watch a show (or a movie)? Or, as an actor, do you often think to yourself, “Oh, I would have done that scene in an entirely different way”?
It takes 10 years to be an actor. It's not until you really start to listen -- it's all in the way you say it back [to the other actor].
So it's a craft that can take a long time to learn.
But some people come to it naturally. I asked Amanda Plummer once, for example, "Why are you still in school?" She was just 17, but she was brilliant.
I worked with an actor once who complained, "Every night, you do it differently." But I haven't really changed anything consciously. It how the line comes out. If I'm listening to my fellow actors, I don't change it purposefully. I just say it differently or interpret it differently according to what I've just heard.

In your experience, are the best actors the ones who are all intense backstage, or the ones who fool around?
Commitment to the project is important. The people who I see in this area who are very good are the ones who focus. The ones who are always bouncing around are not as good.

I had a teacher in college who said, "You're not a very talented actor. Let me rephrase that: You're going to have to work your butt off to get what other people get naturally."
So that's what you do.

After getting 10 years' experience, I realized that it depends on the character. If you yell at me, I may laugh at you. Someone told me once, If you're in a drama, look for the comedy. If you're angry, look for the humor. If you have to cry, dont' cry.
If I see people fake-crying onstage, I get really mad.
Not screaming can be more scary than if somebody screams. Besides, it hurts your ears and becomes annoying.

Who do you admire around here?
Troy [Nickerson], as far as being a director. He takes stuff like the musical Christmas Carol that with Kelsey Grammer was just absolute dreck and makes it gorgeous. And Melody [Deatherage] and Kathie [Doyle-Lipe] and George Green, Paul Villabrille, Damon Mentzer, Patrick McHenry-Kroetch -- with all of them, I don't know how they do what they do, but they're all amazing.

I'm 52. That means I've been doing this for 32 years. And I plan to keep doing it as long as my memory holds up.
I'll tell you one thing about middle age: It takes longer to memorize your lines. But you have your tricks...
When Michael Muzatko brought his high school kids here, I was working on my lines, and he wanted them to see what I do.
I write out all my lines -- no punctuation, no spacing, just in one big block of text. And I learn 'em that way. I trained that way, so that there'd be no inflection on a line.
The kids were very good -- they ask the best questions.

It's not theater unless ...
Unless you have an audience.
But do you actually enjoy applause at the end of a show -- really enjoy it? Because it always makes me feel a little self-conscious.
Yeah, I do. I enjoy the applause. But these people who see theater seldom, or at the Fox -- they stand up at the end of every show. A standing ovation should be a very rare experience -- though it's lovely when it happens spontaneously. With Godspell, with Assassins, you can tell -- they jump to their feet before the last note is played.

Sometimes actors will say, “Oh, but we didn’t get a standing ovation tonight. And I go, ‘Yeah, so?”
I saw that play about the three couples grieving — this was on Broadway — what’s it called?
The Shadow Box?
Yes, and at the end, the people just sat there. The actors came out, and each couple bowed, and it was silent. And it wasn’t until they took their group bows that the audience started applauding.
Just stunned silence ...
And when I saw that, I just went, ‘Whoa, that is cool.’”
When I saw Angels in America in L.A., it was like that. So I was very glad when they did the Reading Stage version of that at the Civic, because I really wanted to play that role.

“You know when they should be standing up, and you know when you don’t deserve it. You know when it rips.”

In a lot of the productions at Spokane Civic Theater that Tom Heppler has been in, it has ripped. He's a class act, and he's one of the pillars of the local theater community.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

audition for *The Pirates of Penzance* Aug. 3-4 at the Civic

The Pirates of Penzance
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Book and lyrics by William S. Gilbert

directed by Yvonne A.K. Johnson
musical direction by Trudy Harris
choreographed by Troy Nickerson

auditions: Monday-Tuesday, Aug. 3-4, at 6:30 pm; callbacks Wed.
on the Civic's Main Stage
roles for 16 men and 10 women

[ photo: Linda Ronstadt as Mabel (center) and Kevin Kline as the Pirate King (right) in Joseph Papp's 1980 Central Park production ]

Perform a verse and a chorus from either a Gilbert and Sullivan piece or a classical musical; cold readings, too, and be ready to move around.

to be performed Sept. 25-Oct. 25

When Frederic reaches age 21, it marks the end of his apprenticeship to the notoriously sensitive Pirates of Penzance. Overcome by a sense of duty to the crown, he vows to destroy the pirates he has come to love as brothers. This Gilbert and Sullivan gem features such songs as "I Am a Pirate King" and "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General."
The subtitle of Pirates is "The Slave of Duty."
Premiered in New York in Dec. 1879, and in London in April 1880.
Will the Major-General be able to protect his daughters from the fearsome pirates who are not so fearsome?

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Ignite! presents *The Complete History of America (abridged)*, July 3-12

Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
on July 3-4 in Riverfront Park
on July 9-12 at Interplayers

Friday, July 3, at 7 pm at the Lilac Bowl
Saturday, July 4 (how appropriate!) at 7 pm in the Clock Tower Meadow

Also: four more shows at Interplayers, 174 S. Howard St., on Thursday-Saturday, July 9-11, at 8 pm and on Sunday, July 12, at 2 pm.  For tickets, call 325-SEAT. Tickets: $14; $12, students; $10, Interplayers subscribers.

These are fully produced shows, NOT readers theater.

Direcetd by Rebecca Cook, the production features Jerry Sciarrio, Tom Meisfjord and Will Gilman.  

For more information, visit www.ignitetheatre.org.

[ photo: reducedshakespeare.com ]

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009


An L.A. Times post suggests that while about 3.6 percent of all Americans watched at least part of Game 2 of the NBA Finals (Lakers vs. Magic), about 2.4 percent watched part of the Tony Awards.
Put that way, theater doesn't seem quite so marginal. Ratings were up; the quality and size of the Broadway season were up.
Bobo's take: The Shrek number was embarrassing and awful. I was intrigued by *Next to Normal.* Geoffrey Rush was eloquent and funny.
And I read *God of Carnage* last night -- single set, 2 M & 2 W; this script will get performed a lot, much like *Art.* Amazing how Reza evokes the beast-like, savage selfishness that crouches inside the id, ready to spring, while at the same time writing laugh-out-loud passages.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

20 Questions with Tom Heppler

Tom Heppler is currently appearing as Marcus Lycus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Spokane Civic Theatre (through Sunday). He works as the administrative assistant to one of the executive VPs at Sterling Bank.

{ Bobo note: After a whole series of e-mail snafus and malfunctioning tape recorders and -- oh, you know, just life getting in the way -- this interview is finally appearing, four months (!) after I first sent questions to Tom. So you'd better enjoy it. Or else. }

What’s your first theatrical memory? What show made you think, “I’m impressed by theater”? And what (different?) show made you think, “I want to get involved in doing theater”?

In 1976, I saw my first real show. We had season tickets to the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco, and we saw A Chorus Line. I was about 20. We got the better of the two casts that were doing the national tour at that time — in L.A. and San Francisco, we got Donna McKechnie. My sister and I sat in the third tier, way up high, and I was blown away. My sister said, "I don't know what was more fun — watching the play or watching you.

What kind of theater did you do in high school? And in college?

I was going to community college in the Bay Area and doing a business major, but I kept switching to the theater classes. And my report card came home and my father asked, "What the hell are you doing?"

I knew I wanted to major in theater. I checked out Sanford Meisner, Lee Strassberg -- and they only sent two students a year

Well, I didn’t get that, but I asked the instructor, could you get me in the summer class at the Neighborhood Theater, a six-week summer program. And for the full year, I got in myself. I was 22.

I liked the Playhouse: it was three hours of acting, an hour and half of voice.

I had gotten into UCLA and UC Irvine and Juilliard, but that experience is what made me into an actor. It was a two-year program, and they cut from 100 kids down to 25. Well, I didn’t make the cut. That’s when I learned that theater is political. But there were amazing people in my class: Amanda Plummer, Chris Noth....

So you went from not seeing or doing much theater at all, to seeing Chorus Line in ‘76, to attending community college in the Bay Area and going after theater full-bore.

I told my parents I was leaving and was going to New York. I was naive and stupid. I had never been in a big city. I was in telephone sales -- I was in school from 9 to 6, and then I would work from 7 to 3 in the morning.

How could you work in the middle of the night?

It was all time zones.

Other than theater, what are your hobbies?

Gardening. I have five acres up by Mount Spokane High School.

What’s coming up now?

Not much. [laughs] My trees are going up. But even though I’ve lived up there for 10 years now, the coyotes and the moose and the deer — they scare me.

And I do woodworking I restore furniture, but I haven’t had much time for that lately. Just for stuff around my house.

You have tremors, shaky hands. What’s your diagnosis and prognosis?

I’ve gotten so that when kids ask — and kids do ask — I tell them it’s because I eat too much Jell-o.
And their eyes get big, and they’re satisified with that.
It’s just a family characteristic that comes from my father’s side of the family. Sometimes I make it do that for a character I'm playing, and it's funny — sometimes onstage, they won't shake when I want them to, and I have to make it work.

Most inspiring place you’ve visited outside the United States?

Venice, Italy. It's incredibly charming. Like the Bay Area, it's all built on landfill. There are entire towns built on piers that are still there after hundreds of years. All the first floors are shut off because of flooding. The people are beautiful and the city was amazing, but very dirty.

My favorite place right now ... next October, I'm going to Egypt to cruise up the Nile, a 17-day cruise. I've tried going to Egypt three times before, but the State Department shut down the visas.

Why the interest in Egypt?

It's where civilization started. I've always been fascinated to see that part of the world.

Let's change topics. For someone in your life, you’re not as good a friend as you should be. For some other individual, you’ve been a really good friend. Discuss.

Well, I have very few friends but quite a lot of acquaintances. I think of friends as the people who, when you really need something done right now, they'll come over. I have friends I've known for 25 years, and I have friends I've known for six months. It's just a bond that you get over time.

Who’s your hero? Do you have any former heroes who, for you at least, have fallen off their pedestals?

"Heroes" -- I don't really like the term. I mean, these sports people or actors or politicians, and everyone regards them as heroes ... I just don't get it. Anybody can be a hero in the situation -- the mom who lifts the car off the kid.

What mildly (or wildly) popular activity, sport or pastime holds just about zero interest for you personally? Why?

I'm not much into sports. I just find it boring as shit -- all those egos running around on that little field.

Tell me a little about Harding in Cuckoo’s Nest. Your performance is wonderful. What discoveries about him have you made in rehearsal? How much has the part been cut for the one-hour competition version?

This is the fifth one I've done. For a competition show, the director cuts it down, then runs it, then cuts it down some more. It usually takes three cuts to get it down to its essence.

Then you have to learn all the lines again, sometimes from a different point of view, because the dialogue that supported that transition earlier is not there. So you come up with different character choices.

I never audition for a show that I don't want to do.

For example, I auditioned for Harding while I was in costume and makeup for Ali Hakim upstairs in Oklahoma! But I just wasn't getting it. I wasn't focused. And it wasnt until the third time that it clicked. Yvonne even said to me at one point, I didn't think you were going to get it.

Diana let me read for both parts in Lonely Planet. That's the only show in which I've kept open, doing and changing things all the way through. It was never dull.

React to the following in whatever way you see fit, Tom.

Bowen’s reviews are too long. They’re too snooty. He plays favorites. He has little understanding of Aspects A, B and C of theater. He shouldn’t single out individual performers for criticisms. He’s too easy to please. He’s way too negative. He fixates on little details. He talks too much about theater in the abstract. He has a funny mustache. He’s too bald. I don’t like the way he breathes.

Oh, reviews ... everybody says they don't read them, but they read them.
It's just your opinion, or Jim [Kershner]'s opinion.
It's odd, in no other profession do they have anybody reviewing them publically.
But it's all just part of the gig. I don't take them that seriously.

Another sticky wicket – this time, about this very blog. What’s your reaction to the following?

Comments on this blog go through me. I reject about 10 percent to 20 percent of them. My criterion: If a comment is purely negative and personal, it doesn’t get in. If, however, it’s critical of an individual but also raises a valid opinion about a show or a performance, then I allow it to be posted. For technical reasons and for the foreseeable future, apparently, anonymous commenters on this blog (as distinct from the Inlander Website in general) will be able to remain anonymous and won’t be required to register with a traceable pseudonym like “Spokane Theater Nut.”

I don't like all the negative comments on the blog. People are uglier when they're anonymous. They'll always be competive. There will always be jealousies. But I don't like it when they get into the personal stuff. I mean, Are you really gonna go there? And besides, if you don't like the personality, you can still like the work. Actors are very egotistical and very insecure ...
... no?!
And sometimes, we don't edit ourselves [laughs].
But I don't read the blog much. I don't have a computer at home, and I'm on the damn thing all day at work, so I don't really care. We all rely too much on technology.

Think of “funniest backstage moments that I’ve experienced or witnessed in Spokane theater.” Now spill. (You can leave names out of it, but we hope you won’t.)
In Death of a Salesman, I was playing Bernard, and I had a lot of downtime. So I’m down in the dressing room, eating tortilla chips, and I hear Melody [Deatherage] over the intercom, and I realize, ‘Son of a bitch, that’s my cue!’ So I haul ass upstairs, and I make it exactly on time. And Melody gives me my line, and when I start speaking to her, I start spitting tortilla chips all over the stage.

Was it so the audience could notice?

No, I don’t think so. But Melody sure noticed. And I’m thinking, ‘What are you gonna do to hide it?’”
... to be continued ... (as you can probably tell from the formatting alone, assembling this interview has been a bear ...)

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

If you can't see 'em, read 'em

Dwight Garner's article in the New York Times describes the pleasures of reading the Tony Best Play-nominated scripts if you live in, say, a backwater like Spokane and can't travel to what Variety still refers to as the Rialto to see the plays in performance.

Bobo is pleased to say that he's done a lot better than Garner in reading and/or seeing the Tony-winning scripts of the past five years. Bobo's also midway through reading reasons to be pretty and has God of Carnage about to arrive in his mailbox. (The LaBute just seems like more of the same; a local playwright once took classes with LaBute and reports him to be, well, not nice; given his obsession with others' physical appearance and his own ... well, I can believe the "not nice" report and reasons strikes me, so far, as just more of the same from LaBute.

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an interview with Steve Booth

(by phone from Dallas, 3 June 09; headshot from broadwayworld.com)

Steve Booth attended Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene and then went to UNLV on a theater scholarship. He’ll be playing the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (at CdA Summer Theater, June 13-27).
Booth has been on the road for the past six months with the musical version of Happy Days. As a result, he’s missing the first week of rehearsal in CdA.
You read that right: The actor singing the title role in CdA’s first show is flying in on Sunday and joining the rest of the cast on Monday morning, June 8 — just 130 hours before the curtain goes up on opening night.
Yikes. At least it’ll be a fun homecoming for Booth, who has lots of family and friends in the area.

In the summers of 2002-04 at Coeur d’Alene, Booth appeared in Anything Goes, West Side Story and Oklahoma!; Smokey Joe’s Café and Fiddler on the Roof; and Cats and Little Shop of Horrors.
He performed in the Las Vegas version of Avenue Q (he played Princeton and Rod), then returned to CdA three summers ago to play the title role in Pippin.
This is his first summer back since.

on Avenue Q:
Steve Booth: We had 10 shows a week, but two casts. So we did five shows a week — we covered for one another within the company, then were on standby for four of the other cast’s five shows every week.
Bobo: But God, living near the Strip … I hate that town.
Steve Booth: I know what you mean. But having gone to school there and doing Avenue Q — I kind of have a soft spot for Las Vegas.

Bobo: So what happened with *Glory Days*?
[from a phone interview on 5/2/08 with Bill Booth, Steve's father:]
Roger [Welch] came to see it in New York. Steve did an off-Broadway show called "Journey to the West," and five or six shows at the Paper Mill.
Glory Days was done at Circle in the Square, which seats about 700.
Steve plays Will, who opens and closes the show. All four characters have been away to college, but Will is the one who wants them to stick together. It's the night before the football alumni game; none of them made the team. He wants it to be the same among them, but it can't be. At the end, Will isn't sure what to do with his life.
One character has a big secret; Skip is the cynic, who's jaded and cynically aware; Andy is passionate, cocky, has a strong sense of self, but also a softer side
But it closed after 17 previews and just one night on Broadway [5/7/08].

[ IBDb.com entry here.
Glory Days: book by James Gardiner, music and lyrics by Nick Blaemire ]

Steve Booth reflects on his *Glory Days,* a year later:
Unfortunately, some bad decisions were made by higher-ups. We rushed moving the show from D.C. to Broadway. In D.C., it had gotten rave reviews and sold out.
It was a tiny little show, just four characters, so we went into it with small expectations and were pleasantly surprised.
Circle in the Square was a perfect size for this show -- a 3/4 thrust stage, so it was an easy transplant.
It opened up, and we made the move real fast.
But all of us actors -- who's gonna say not to go to Broadway? It was our dream. We were sort of flying by the seat of our pants.
The smarter move would have been to take some time, workshop it regionally a bit more. It's not a perfect show, but it's a good one.
But everything moved so fast. I think the producers didn't raise enough money so that, if it wasn't an immediate hit, they'd be able to keep it afloat until word of mouth helped it out.
As it was, they were banking on it coming to Broadway and getting rave reviews.
It could have gained a following; it could have earned some creative nods -- you know, some nominations or something.
But the kids that wrote it -- it was harder for them [for the show to close on opening night]. It was very hard for all of us, but it was harder on them. They'd been writing that thing for a couple of years.
Nick Blaemire was also appearing in *Cry Baby* at the same time.
It was a learning experience for them.
You know, I got my Broadway credit, but when it closed that fast, my first thought was: "Darn, we didn't get to record a cast album." So that's why I'm excited: right after Joseph, I'm going to New York and we're going to record it for Chickaboom Records. [sh-k-boom Records; sh-k-boom.com]
So it's not dead -- it was sold to NPI, and it's being done a lot in Japan. This Japanese boy-group, kind of like the Japanese version of N Sync, they're doing it a lot.
And Glory Days will be done in high schools -- it's an easy, cheap show, with just four guys and good stories.
We should have gone off-Broadway after we were done with D.C.
[photo: cast of Glory Days, with Steven Booth as Will, on right; from jessepjohnson.com]

on preparing for Joseph:
Bobo: Did you watch Donny Osmond in the film, or are you one of those actors who studiously avoids watching previous performances of the same role?
Steve Booth: To tell you the truth, I wasn't that familiar with the show. I've never seen it onstage.
I've seen some clips of the movie. It's great as a reference point.
But I don't expect that Roger is just going to copy that thing. He'll have his own ideas.
I am not Donny Osmond. But I have listened to the music. I'm learning it on my own without watching the movie.

Roger is letting me come to rehearsals a week late. And I'm a little scared about missing the first week of rehearsal.
I mean, it's one of the leads, along with the Narrator. But the staging and the choreography -- it's not that hard, as long as I know my music.
Joseph is in his little skirt and he just sort of walks around -- there's not too much dancing for him.
I'm confident that in a week, I'll be able to get it.

On Sunday [June 7], we have two shows here in Dallas, then I'm getting on an 11 o'clock flight, and by Monday at 10:00, I'll get started on Joseph.
It's gonna be hard, but I have my book and my iPod, and I'm going through the script and highlighting everything.
I might make little notations where I might have ideas, where we might a little twist in the score, but I can't make a lot of choices. Mostly, I just need to be put into the show.
Roger has done this show before. It's not a new show to him. It'll be easy to work with him and with everyone who I know [in CdA]. It'd be a lot harder not knowing anyone. But then I would not have gotten the role if I did not already have relationships with people there. I have the confidence to pull it off.
I told Roger, anytime, I will come back. My whole family is there, so I get to see my family.

on the *Happy Days* tour:
We're in our second week in Dallas now. We started in October in L.A. We did it there to the end of November, then were on hiatus for a bit. So we've actually only been on tour since January, in Milwaukee.
This is my first tour. Some people like living out of a suitcase, but I like to be more settled.

[photo: Steven Booth, on left, as Richie in the musical version of *Happy Days,* with the Fonz and Ralph]

Bobo: Upcoming projects?
Steve Booth: Nothing for sure. I've been invited back to UNLV to do Company.
They bring in conservatory guest contracts to put past graduates on the main stage. I've never done any Sondheim, so I'm excited.
Then, at the end of August, I'm not sure, but I'm going back to New York. My plan is to go back to the city and do albums, get into classes. I'm all about bettering my work and saving money on tour.

Bobo: When did Roger offer you the part of Joseph?
Steve Booth: I think in late February, he brought it up and then in April he told me I was in.
Without the first week of rehearsal, I'm nervous.
Idaho was my home, but now New York is. I'm eager to get back to auditioning, but this worked out perfectly -- things are kinda slow now.
I'm 28 now, and it feels good to get back to my family.
I'm happy where I am in my career, even though I was late getting into theater.

I love to do it, and it paid for my college. But it wasn't until later that I thought I could make a living at it.
It's hard to feel like I'm an adult, even now, because I'm so passionate about it, and then, in the next second, I've got nothing.

I look at my dad, who is a businessman, has a regular 9-to-5 job. And he provided for us. I don't know that I'll ever have that. But I always know that I love to perform.

In high school, I just didn't know. In fact, the first show I was ever in, my girlfriend at the time was in it, so I auditioned.

My senior year at UNLV, I did a couple of musicals -- The Last Five Years in our black box and Floyd Collins on our medium-size stage -- both at the same time, and I was overwhelmed, but I do remember how much I loved it.

I wasn't just a theater kid -- I did sports and band and tried a lot of things. And I'm still learning -- I want to take classes. It has not stopped being exciting.

Bobo: And in New York, have you had to wait tables?
Steve Booth: I got lucky -- I haven't. Out of UNLV, I went to an open call for Avenue Q -- it wasn't an Equity call. And I got called back, and then the day after, I flew to New York, and then spent three months staying on people's couches, trying to make it as a non-Equity actor.
And then they flew me back to Vegas with full creative, and I worked as a caddy on golf courses, just put all my chips into making it -- it was a long, year-long, arduous auditioning process for *Avenue Q.*
But by flying to New York twice, that allowed me to go out and look for agents. So I got an agent out of it, and I saved a lot of money, so I was able to move to New York, where I've been lucky, getting little gigs, enough to keep me afloat.

Bobo: But now you're performing in front of the home crowd.
Steve Booth: "That's the funnest part, to do it for an audience, and my family gets to see me and have a fun time. To have my family there."

on touring with Happy Days:
“Being out on the road lately — people just aren’t coming. It’s a bit depressing to be giving 100 percent of yourself to a show, and the people aren’t there."

on CdA Summer Theater:
"Roger always hires great people. It's always fun -- I have not had a bad experience there. It's not a job where you make tons of money, but it's fun."

on what opening night for Joseph might be like, after just six days’ rehearsal:
“Come Saturday night, I may be a like a deer in the headlights, but they can push me around — if I’m in the wrong spot onstage, they can just push me into the right spot.”

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

A better job of Holding On

That's what the local theater community needs to do with the new plays in its midst that need nurturing.
I guess most people in Spokane didn't want to spend their Friday night contemplating death, because only about 20 people showed for the staged reading of *Holding On -- Letting Go,* the new play by Bryan Harnetiaux, co-playwright-in-residence at the Civic (and the third in his trilogy about death).
They missed an intelligent 55-min. play that's well crafted, includes humor, has underwritten its three hospice worker characters, and had a breathtaking final image.

Bobo's posting mostly to encourage people to attend Sandy Hosking's Detours today at 2 pm and Holding On, again tonight at 8 pm in the Studio Theater. It's only five bucks to get in, instead of the advertised $10.

A'dell Whitehead was especially good as the dying man's wife, a basketball coach who's hyper-busy, competitive and very much in denial about the fact that her husband of 28 years is dying. Acting was good all around, but the hospice workers are mostly one-dimensional: chirpy nurse, good-buddy social worker, a chaplain who's so knowing. They all need more characterizing.

It was distressing to see Bryan Jackson, who's on the faculty at LCHS, hobbling out to his car after portraying the dying man, Bobby, so well. Bryan's dealing with some serious health issues of his own, and life, sadly, sometimes imitates art.
As a result, the focus of the post-play discussion naturally fell on the dying man (it's liver cancer, aggressive and now spread throughout his body) and his wife and his mother.
But I kept thinking: Most Americans don't even want to admit that they're aging, much less talk about death. And yet in this youth-worshipping, plastic-surgery culture of ours, there are these amazing and heroic people (hospice workers) who actually confront death -- other people's deaths, strangers' deaths -- on a daily basis. What's it like to live your life in the context of end-of-life like that?
I kept wanting to know more about the motivations of the three hospice workers: Why do they do what they do?

Harnetiaux attempts a three-part scene with dialogue intertwined like a fugue -- might be clearer in a full staging, because its premises were murky when actors were holding scripts -- but the payoff was strong, with the wife's anger at her underperforming basketball players paralleling Bobby's anger against dying.
Bobby is probably too heroic, too easy with the quips -- there are a couple of vulnerable/scared moments, but I'd like to have seen a little more rage against the dying of the light. The wife/mother-in-law tension was good -- interesting "family dynamics," as the phrase goes.

Anyway, you ought to go see it tonight.

[ logo: joshuatreevillage.com ]

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

They're tired of waiting for that boring Godot guy

They just want somebody to break out into song.
Any song. They don't really care if it's any good. Just something happy, and that takes our mind off our troubles.

Sunday's Tonys telecast is going to be even more frustrating than usual.
Just look at the list of award winners who won't be shown on TV, just so we can squeeze in another big production number from Mamma Mia! or 9 to 5 or Jersey Boys or Legally Blonde.
Kevin Spacey has called the CBS bigwigs a bunch of [very bad words].
Because, as everybody knows, Shrek: The Musical is way better than that slavery play (by August Wilson) that the Obamas flew down to New York to see last week.

That's where the future of American theater, and the Tonys, lies.

ADDED June 4:
The L.A. Times' critics weighs in with should win/will win's.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Bryan Harnetiaux's *Holding On* at the Civic

Bryan Jackson plays Bobby, a dying man, in *Holding On — Letting Go,* by one of Spokane Civic Theater's two playwrights in residence.
Shows on Friday-Saturday, June 5-6, at 8 pm.
Visit www.spokanecivictheater.com. Tickets: $10.
Directed by George Green.
Bobby's wife and mother are played by Liz McAlpine and A'dell Whitehead.
Three hospice workers are played by Terry Sticka, Kari McClure and Jhon Goodwin.

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Holding On — Letting Go

Left to right: May (Liz McAlpine), Roger (Jhon Goodwin), Gabe (Terry Sticka), Lee (A'dell Whitehead), Virginia (Kari McClure) and Bobby (Bryan Jackson) in Bryan Harnetiaux's hospice drama, "Holding On — Letting Go" (a drama about a man with terminal cancer who's sent home to be cared for by hospice workers)
at the Civic's Firth J. Chew Studio Theater
directed by George Green
June 5-6, 2009
[photo: Young Kwak]
(set is from *The Affections of May*)

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Originally uploaded by Sir Andrew Aguecheek
Even in a dramatic scene, some actors insist on clowning around.

Bethany the Hart and Bozo the Clown
in Sandra Hosking's *Detours* (a comedy about corporate life and the obstacles that crop up on the road when you're just trying to arrive on-time for an important presentation)
Spokane Civic Theater
June 6, 2009
directed by Toni Cummins
with Kathie Doyle-Lipe, Paul Villabrille, Troy Nickerson, David Gigler, Bethany Hart, Nina Kelly, Maxwell Nightser and Bozo Clown ("definitely not a very giving actor")

photo: 5/31/09 by Young Kwak for The Inlander