Theater Talk

Theater commentary with Anthony Chase and Peter Hall.

Courtney Helinski, Buffalo Toronto Public Media

Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s 45th main stage summer season was put on hold this year due to the pandemic, but that has not stopped SDP from carrying on with the mission of free professional outdoor theatre. Their sold out "Live Intermezzo Season" began last Friday, Aug. 21, at the Olmsted Park Lodge Picnic area in Buffalo, with socially distanced touring productions (think “The Best Of The Bard”). 


Gene Witkowski

The Artie Awards (Buffalo's "Tony Awards") ceremony is still on hold, but the nominations are appearing, including Outstanding Production of a Play and of a Musical. Awards come at the end of the creative process, and tonight you can watch Donna Hoke's  play in development, HEARTS OF STONE, streamed. But it all starts with a creative spark, and Ujima has a call for submissions to their August #ArtThatHeals showcase with the theme, "Black Lives Matter." See details on the Arties, HEARTS, and Ujima below.


The Hill Family

Ever optimistic actor activist Lorna C. Hill, who founded Ujima, the longest continuing running theater company in Buffalo, succumbed to cancer, while COVID-19 claimed Broadway star Nick Cordero. In other pandemic related news, Actor's Equity has schedule two shows in August in The Berkshires under very strict protocols, Spree magazine's July issue cover what's what, and Shea's has moved the touring (non-Equity, opening in Buffalo) production of TOOTSIE back? up? to December 1, 2020! Keep your season tickets!


secondgenerationtheatre.com

Little by little, theater companies are getting better at zooming around the web, because, if it ain't online, it ain't. Period. The Antonyo Awards honoring black Broadway actors, etc. can still be seen. Visit Playbill.com for Mart Crowley's THE MEN FROM THE BOYS, tonight at 7 p.m., a sequel to THE BOYS IN THE BAND. Also tonight, at 8 p.m., "That's Shawbiz" features various Shawfest actors with very slick use of Zoom technology. On Sunday, at 7 p.m., SGT will offer PAGE TO STAGE: MISCAST where a number of favorite


Dudney Joseph on Instagram

The show can't go on (it's not just venue concerns, but rehearsals, tech, etc.), yet the fundraising must! Second Generation Theatre has elected to damn the coronavirus and go full speed ahead with a virtual version of  "Page to Stage: Miscast" in which some of Buffalo's most talented performers tackle material that is entirely inappropriate for them, online on Sunday, June 28, 2020 at 7 p.m. For online entertainment, Broadway Black's inaugural Antonyo Awards airs tonight, June 19, at 7 p.m.

Monique Carboni in Playbill.com

June is Pride Month and while COVID-19 may have curtailed the parade, Playbill.com/PridePlays announces a performance of Donja R. Love's "one in two" (about being HIV Positive, Black, and Queer) tonight at 7pm. Watch, then vote before midnight for the first ever "Antonyo Awards" (the "just for fun" presentations will be on Juneteenth) which promise to be "hilarious, uplifting, and unapoligetically black." Then read "We See You, White American Theater."


Sara Kurlwich in The New York Times

Playwright (THE NORMAL HEART), novelist, in-your-face AIDS activist Larry Kramer, described as "one of America's most valuable troublemakers" passed away last week. During the 1980s he criticized Ronald Reagan, Dr. Anthony Fauci (they later became friends), as well as gay culture and behavior. He was a major influence on Tony Kushner to write ANGELS IN AMERICA. In other AIDS related news


Shakespeare in Delaware Park Facebook page

Shakespeare in Delaware Park announced the cancellation of its entire summer season.  Online is where the action is and SIDP has one of the busiest Facebook pages. Visit here for their 30th anniversary online celebration (CHANGED TO Saturday 5/30) and Road Less Traveled to hear a podcast with Anthony and Peter Palmisano. Tonight (Friday) you can go to BroadwayCares.org/Chita at 8pm to see some legendary performers.


Alleyway.com

"Changing... it keeps changing" wrote Sondheim and it's now official. Neal Radice and his wife Joyce Stilson have handed over the venerable 40 year old Alleyway Theatre (over 150 productions to date not including 29 years of "Buffalo Quickies") to the next generation although "Buffalo Quickies" continue live on YouTube for the next two Sunday mornings at 11am.  We also note the passing of Joey Giambra and Lori McDonald, two longtime Buffalo theater notables. 


Avery Schneider / WBFO News

The Artie Awards (Buffalo's version of Broadway's Tony Awards) are important in recognizing outstanding work, but if theater people are anything, they are are people who need people. Yet, because of schedules the WNED|WBFO Artie Awards is the one night of the year when everybody can party. And if they can't kiss-kiss, hug-hug, squeeze one more into a selfie, then we'll wait until they can! 


Marc J. Franklin in Playbill.com

And the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for drama goes to.... a musical! (the 10th in Pulitzer history) A STRANGE LOOP, by  Michael R. Jackson, about a black, queer writer working as an usher writing a musical about a black, queer writer working as an usher writing a musical about (see above). While most spring and summer theater workshops and programs remain cancelled, a rich resource for parents is Playbill.com's "Online Resources for kids and families to get you through COVID-19" including Disney and Lincoln Center activities.


Broadwayworld.com

Last week Shakespeare in Delaware Park's first show was cancelled then Antoni Cimolino cancelled the entire Stratford (Shakespeare) Festival. Shawfest is rehearsing via Zoom and may have some shows later in the summer. The good news is that suddenly major Chita Rivera level stars are available to collaborate online, for example at Stephen Sondheim's 90th Birthday tribute ("The Ladies Who Lunch" from COMPANY begins at 1:58:34.)  The 12th annual August Wilson Monologue Competition National Finals will be held online May 2–3. 

Alleyway.com

Anthony recalls a time when, as a high schooler, Broadway was a bit out of reach, so he read everything he could about the theater. Now, when theaters are dark, he finds reading a comfort. Even though social distancing rules might be relaxed by summer, so much work takes place long before opening night that Shakespeare in Delaware Park can't just "flip a switch" on June 18 and put on a show. Sadly, AS YOU LIKE IT has been canceled. Meanwhile, the Alleyway Theatre's "Buffalo Quickies" air live Sunday mornings at 11am on YouTube.


MGM publicity still, Public Domain, courtesy of Wikipedia

In the 5th week of social distancing, electronic media is becoming a bigger part of our lives as we try to stay connected and entertained or both. This Sunday at 11 a.m., the Alleyway Theater will have a socially distant but live theatrical event via YouTube. And with no theaters to attend, Anthony has discovered, or re-discovered, binge-watching streamed television shows and is delighted to see how many follow the 19th century model, proposed by Eugene Scribe, of "the well made play." 


Times-Standard

The last record of any semblance of live theater, once a staple of the mighty Greek and later Roman cultures, was around 530 A.D. Then we entered "the dark ages" and, as now with the COVID-19 pandemic, theater was dark. But ultimately, it was Easter, and depictions of the three Marys at Jesus' tomb (the Holy Mother, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the sister of Lazarus) that reignited the magic of live presentations.


biography.com

Are you being productive during this time of "social distancing?" Shakespeare, during one period of the plague in the early 1600s wrote ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA, MACBETH, and KING LEAR. 


Irish Classical Theatre

As theaters are canceling their current runs (see listings) many are also canceling rehearsals for upcoming shows. Social distancing is affecting everyone, from the Stratford Festival to Shawfest, to local productions, to Broadway, and all the Broadway national tours across America. Many theaters will, we hope, be able to turn a cancellation into a postponement. Listen to Theater Talk weekly and, in-between, subscribe to  Anthony's (FREE) blog theatertalkbuffalo.com for updates.

Tatiana Gelfand

Anthony remembers Zoe (say "Zo") Caldwell, winner of four Tony Awards (the last for portraying the opera star Maria Callas in MASTER CLASS) who passed away Tuesday at 86, at home, due to complications from Parkinson's. On a recent trip to NYC, he saw Jane Alexander (age 80) in GRAND HORIZONS, Charles Busch (only 65) in THE LEGEND OF LILY DARE, and very much enjoyed the new, more true to life book for THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.  SCOTCH AND MADNESS opened at the Alleyway did last night while many more plays are about to (see listings).

Matthew Murphy

Mary Magdalene along with Jesus, Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod et. al. sing in the 50th anniversary tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Shea's, while Josie DiVincenzo plays 40 different roles in the one-woman WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW about late-in-life pregnancy at Jewish Repertory. And two singers, one glorious, Alberta Hunter, is portrayed by Zoe Scruggs and Ember Tate in COOKIN' AT THE COOKERY at MusicalFare, while the worse singer in the world, Florence Foster Jenkins, is portrayed by Mary Kate O'Connell at her new theater in Kenmore.

Bethany Burrows, musicalfare.com

Agnes Bain spent 41 of her 78 years overseeing the growth of Buffalo's African American Cultural Center on Masten Avenue, the home of the Paul Robeson Theatre (the play JUMP is wrapping there this Sunday afternoon) where she was beloved and is sadly missed. Meanwhile a celebration of blues singer Alberta Hunter in COOKIN' AT THE COOKERY is on stage at MusicalFare, FACTORY FOR MURDERERS is back on stage, and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is coming to Shea's.

Marcus T. Thompson, Jr.

A dozen different shows now into February give present a wide variety of genres, from exposing our hidden motivations in THE ANASTASIA TRIALS, THE ANTIPODES, and JUMP to "detective shows" MISS NELSON IS MISSING or THE MOUSETRAP to plays that portend violence such as COPS AND FRIENDS OF COPS, FACTORY FOR MURDERERS, and MERCURY FUR.

Gene Witkowski, Kavinoky Theatre

After an early start for both THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY and COPS AND FRIENDS OF COPS, over half a dozen other productions are up this weekend, including A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (Irish Classical with the Buffalo Philharmonic at Kleinhans) and on Monday the second free reading of GOD OF VENGEANCE which is the basis for a Paula Vogel play (INDECENT) coming in March. Take some time to peruse the listings below.

Gene Witkowski

Some things might be worse than you'd think (perhaps the movie version of CATS) and some will be much better than you'd suspect from the title (the gorgeous musical THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY which opens this weekend at the Kavinoky) and one limited run should be greater than the sum of its parts - Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM with the complete incidental music by Mendelsssohn.

Toronto Globe and Mail

In 2019, as every year, the theater community lost beloved people, including Diahann Carroll, who sang "The Perfect Year" in her role as Norma Desmond in Webber's SUNSET BOULEVARD. And there was Carol Channing and Hal Prince and, in a bit of delicious irony, both despised critic John Simon of New York Magazine and actress Sylvia Miles who once dumped a plate of lasagna on his head.

Bethany Burrows, musicalfare.com

With nine area shows still in production this weekend, most up through Sunday, it's time to look back on a strong year with directorship transitions at The Alleyway and The Irish Classical Theatre while up at Shaw the "new" (since 2017) Artistic Director, Tim Carroll, is firming up his vision. Ujima Theater has a new stage, Road Less Traveled and MusicalFare continued to make good use of Shea's 710, and the Kavinoky had a major success with MOCKINGBIRD.

Facebook

Anthony went to NYC, which "keeps Christmas well," saw the tree in Rockefeller Center, and took in some serious dramas, including Samuel Hunter's GREATER CLEMENTS starring Judith Ivey and Adam Rapp's THE SOUND INSIDE starring Mary Louise Parker, about a Yale professsor who mis-reads and mis-uses one of her students. Here in Buffalo, if you think you've seen A CHRISTMAS CAROL, think again. With an entire cast of veterans (young and old) on stage at the Alleyway, there is a particularly fresh charm in the telling.

Jessica Marinelli

About half of the current theater in town is Christmas inspired, but not all, and that includes Buffalo's "Theatre District" starting with Shea's 710's remount of CHRISTMAS OVER THE TAVERN and the Alleyway's annual favorite A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but we also have Melissa Leventhal channeling the late great Patsy Cline at Shea's intimate Smith Theatre which shares a lobby with the 3000+ seat Shea's and the touring production of LES MISERABLES.

Irish Classical Theatre on Facebook

For the first time ever, The Shaw Festival has a holiday show on the main Festival Theatre stage - HOLIDAY INN,  by Irving Berlin, directed by Shaw and Stratford superstar Kate Hennig, as the traditional A CHRISTMAS CAROL continues at the Shaw's Royal George Theatre. The Alleyway will launch their 37th annual A CHRISTMAS CAROL on December 6, and ELF continues (with only a few single tickets left) at MusicalFare Theatre.

K.E.G. courtesy of The Paul Robeson Theatre

The August Wilson "century play" about Pittsburgh's Hill District in the 1960s opened at the Paul Robeson Theater, three and a half hours of delicious Wilson monologues, directed by Wilson devotee Ed Harris. On and off Broadway, Anthony took in several plays, including the controversial SLAVE PLAY by Jeremy O. Harris and Will Eno's THE UNDERLYING CHRIS starring Buffalo expat (and Bills fan) Lizbeth Mackay.

Gina Gandolfo 2019

Before all the "Christmas" shows begin, fine productions abound right now, including TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at The Kavinoky and TWO TRAINS RUNNING at the Paul Robeson, as well as Mark Humphrey's THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, THE BOYS UPSTAIRS at BUA, OH MY GOD at JRT, THE INTERROGATION ROOM at RLTP, and with an extra show Saturday at 2 added by popular demand, SHE KILLS MONSTERS at Subversive (see listings below).

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