WBFO Arts & Culture Desk

WBFO's Arts & Culture Desk is funded by the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.

Tyrone Dukes, The New York Times

Eric Bentley (1916-2020) wrote almost a dozen books of theater criticsm, was a friend of and expert on playwright Bertolt Brecht, wrote plays, revues and songs himself, and taught at UCLA, Harvard, Columbia and UB, where he became friends of Neal Radice, now retired from the Alleyway Theatre, who shared some memories of Bentley, a self-promoter (isn't everyone in theater?) who cared deeply about his words.

sheas.org

Impresario Michael Shea, a "larger than life" character in the history of theater, opened "The Wonder Theater" on Jan. 16, 1926 (95 years ago Saturday) to bring vaudeville and Hollywood silent movies (accompanied by a mighty Wurlitzer organ) to 4,000 patrons at a time. Saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s by concerned citizens led by Kurt Mangel and expanded later to handle large Broadway touring shows, it's constantly under renovation supervised by Doris Collins. Michael Murphy, president of Shea's Performing Arts Center, spoke with Theater Talk.

WBFO file photo

Perhaps no sector has been hurt more by the COVID-19 pandemic than the arts. During the second in a series of State of the State addresses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new initiative that could bring back outdoor performances, and perhaps even indoor performances. WBFO’s Tom Dinki got reaction from those in the Buffalo arts scene.

  

Office of the Governor

Gov. Andrew Cuomo detailed his plans to use rapid coronavirus testing in 2021 to reopen restaurants, theaters and arts venues -- including New York City’s Tribeca Film festival in June -- even before most New Yorkers are vaccinated.

Jerry Seawood

The very happy Alexandria ("Alex") Watts, Co-President of ARTA (the Association of Regional Theater Artists) has graced almost every major stage in WNY as a Green Monster, a "Squirrelle," a flying bat, and a pinkie-up tea drinking Jane Austen herione ("Miss Bennet") among many others. She chats about the mission of ARTA to provide "Community, Advocacy, Education, and Opportunity" for local actors. And, of course, her laughter provides a much needed antidote to all the stresses of our times.


Nick Lippa / WBFO

What will the theater-going experience look like in a post-pandemic United States? Movie lovers across the country still don’t know. And as is the case in many locales, local screen owners in Western New York are continuing to adapt week to week.


Back in the 1980s, when many of today's performers (including Michele Ragusa!) were starting professional careers in Buffalo, Marc-Jon Filippone was a major figure, devoted to musicals, at all sorts of venues, from Ruben's Backstage on Pearl Street to the Lancaster Opera House to his own kitchen for after-show impromptu cabarets. Here Shakespeare in Delaware Park's Lisa Ludwig shares some memories, as does Paula Makar and Michael Lo Rocca.


Artist: G. Peter Jemison; Photo: Kevin Vickers

Buffalo is now home to one of the first Native American-owned art galleries in the United States and perhaps the only commercial gallery to exclusively showcase contemporary Native art.

danielmertzlufft.com

Daniel Mertzlufft graduated from Lancaster High School in 2011 and headed off to the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam intending to become a music teacher, but as things turned out, he ended up in NYC composing and then one day made a Tik Tok sendup/homage to a typical end-of-act-one Broadway musical big finish number called "The Grocery Store" and now his phone rings off the hook. And when James Cordon of The Late Late Show calls, it's a LOUD ring. More on Mertzlufft below, but don't forget your ticket(s) for tomorrow night for Artpark's TAYLOR MAC'S HOLIDAY SAUCE...PANDEMIC! in support of local Pride groups with virtual after-party hosted by Anthony Chase and Javier Bustillos in honor of local artist Ari Moore.


taylormac.org

MacArthur "Genius" Taylor Mac and world-wide friends, including Music Director Matt Ray and producers Pomegranate Arts, join together to put the fun in holiday dysfunction.  Mac promises that HOLIDAY SAUCE...PANDEMIC! blending live and recorded music, film, burlesque and "random acts of fabulousness" will reframe the songs you love and the holidays you hate. The show streams at 7 p.m. Saturday December 12 and it's also a fundraiser for Artpark (where Mac was artist in residence), the Pride Center of Western New York, and Niagara Pride Inc.

Eileen Buckley, WBFO Archive Photo, 2012

Anthony and Peter adopt an attitude of gratitude for many things, including (so far) good health, the ability to work while socially distant, and for a theater community standing up to the challenge while artistic directors reexamine their missions.  Anthony is particularly  grateful that since Hollywood mostly shut down, his sister who worked for Warner Bros. was now free to move her family to Buffalo! So these days Anthony-the-arch-critic's raised eyebrow and his Grinch-like glare have softened into a big grin.


Bob Wiltshire / WNY Alzheimer's Association

For those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, having access to social activities is crucial. COVID-19 has presented a few challenges for the WNY Alzheimer’s Association, but it hasn’t stopped them from finding socially safe ways to gather an at risk population on a weekly basis. This includes art related Zoom activities with local partners like the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

D'Youville College on Twitter

Big doings on Buffalo's diverse West Side on the D'Youville College campus, with a major emphasis on a health professions hub, more acting jobs in the "Simulated Patient Program," and repurposing Holy Angels Church with all sorts of promising arts ideas floated, including a second theatrical space, and the Kavinoky possibly becoming an Actors Equity house. As the college drops their old "Spartans" mascot and embraces the more appropriate "Saints" ("Never refuse to serve") two new campus residents are St. Bernard puppies, Maggie and Saint, seen in a promotional video here.


Nick Lippa / WBFO

A multimedia art installation centered around Love Canal runs through the end of November at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. ‘UNSEEN’ appeals to the senses while showcasing the lasting consequences of the toxic waste that destroyed Niagara Falls neighborhoods more than 40 years ago. Artist Chantal Calato explained to WBFO’s Nick Lippa how the work came to be.


donnahoke.com

Buffalo-based playwright Donna Hoke's work has been seen in 47 states and on five continents. And while theaters have been in lockdown now for eight months and shows are not being produced on stage, they are being written. Some are Zoom readings, others are finished solo works, some are autonomous works, such as novels or radio plays. Donna Hoke, published author of dozens of full length as well as 10-minute plays, talks about her recent activity as a playwright and blogger during the pandemic.


Alleyway.com

Chris Handley, the Alleyway Theatre's new Executive Artistic Director, along with Robyn Lee Horn, the new Managing Director, decided to drop the entrance fee to enter the annual Maxim Mazumdar new play competition and that expanded the pool with so much good material, they decided to offer a Digital Theatre Festival from November 6 through the 22nd. Visit the website for details.


Eileen Buckley, WBFO Archive Photo

While theaters are dark, theater companies are busy, including Chautauqua with a play filmed at and airing on WNED-TV (airdate: Monday, October 26, starting at 8). And airing on your device of choice will be TEA FOR THREE, filmed at the TR Inaugural site in Buffalo, about three First Ladies. Meet Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Betty Ford, a charming antidote to the politics of today, as explained by Mary Kate O'Connell. 


Irish Classical Theatre

The Irish Classical Theatre Company is kicking off its 30th Anniversary Season with their first-ever digital theater performance of the work that opened their first "permanent" home (27 years ago) at the Calumet on Chippewa.  SEA MARKS by Gardner McKay is a love story about Colm, a lonely fisherman living on a remote island west of Galway and Timothea, a sophisticated, beautiful woman from the midlands of England (watch trailer here).  Presented virtually October 16 to November 1, 2020, tickets will be good for one night only (to be chosen by the purhaser). 


Nick Lippa / WBFO

Buffalo is the birthplace of many legendary musicians. You may not know who all of them are, but you can see at least one now on the corner of Kensington and Bailey Avenue. WBFO’s Nick Lippa reports how artist Edreys Wajed and M&T Bank brought Grover Washington Jr. to life through an art mural.


Michael Thomas

Dan Shanahan, Artistic Director of Torn Space Theater, the first company to have live productions in the '20-'21 season (outdoor, socially distant, masks required, site-specific at Silo City) has, like Shea's and many other companies, been using the shutdown to improve their space, including a huge four-lot outdoor facility at the corner of Fillmore and Paderewski (in Buffalo's old "Polonia" district).


L.A. Times

It opened in 1926 as "The Wonder Theatre" and today can entertain several thousand on any given night, except during a pandemic, and so Shea's Buffalo Theatre, as Broadway is, as other Buffalo venues (see below) are, is offering subscriptions to virtual shows and just announced: LIVE FROM THE WEST SIDE: WOMEN OF BROADWAY - PATTI LUPONE, LAURA BENANTI, VANESSA WILLIAMS. Shea's President Michael Murphy talks about scheduling, renovations, youth education, the Kenny Awards, and racial inclusion.


annettedanielstaylor.com

Annette Daniels Taylor, born in NYC (Staten Island), is an Artie award-winning playwright, published poet, filmmaker, artist and costumer (and for awhile the personal stylist for actress Ruby Dee) whose first experience as an audience member in Buffalo was at the Paul Robeson and she was sold! Jumping in as a volunteer for the African American Cultural Center's "Jumpin' Jumbalaya" youth summer program, she went on to costume for the Robeson, where she is now the new Artistic Director.


Jewish Repertory Theatre

Tonight is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and also "Curtain Up!" the start of the New Year of  theater in WNY. So we thought we'd "Better call Saul" and speak with Saul Elkin, Artistic Director and co-founder of the Jewish Repertory Theatre of Western New York, about the five plays scheduled for this "virtual" 20-21 season. Saul is excited about the opportunities to collaborate with the playwrights, one of which, Canadian Mark Leiren-Young, would most likely not be able to attend his own show, BAR MITZVAH BOY, starring Peter Palmisano, which opens the season and runs November 5-25, 2020.


Nancy J. Parisi Buffalo Spree

He played with Count Basie, he played with Ellington, he wowed audiences at the piano in AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' and SOPHISTICATED LADIES and COOKIN' AT THE COOKERY, all at MusicalFare Theatre, and he's back there, livestreaming on Sept. 17 with jazz vocalist Ms. Alex McArthur and two days later streaming from the Kavinoky with John Fredo, whose jazz roots go back farther than most know.

TAB & TDA, courtesy of Doug Weyand

The 39th Annual Curtain Up! activities which traditionally launch the new theater season in WNY have been reimagined for this year. Because of COVID-19 and government regulations, in lieu of the Curtain Up! dinner, live performances, and after-party on Main Street in the Theatre District it's all online. The Theatre Alliance of Buffalo (TAB) and Theatre District Association of WNY (TDA) are collaborating to present virtual, socially distanced Curtain Up! 2020 activities. Musicalfare's Doug Weyand explains. 


Dave Debo/WBFO News

Chadwick Boseman, the star of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther,” died at the age of 43 on Friday after a private, four-year battle with colon cancer. Boseman also starred in “Marshall,” which was filmed in Buffalo and other parts of Western New York in 2016. Buffalo Niagara Film Commissioner Tim Clark spoke with WBFO’s James Farrell about Boseman’s time in Buffalo and how he will be remembered in Western New York. 

 


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”). 


Nick Lippa / WBFO

It wasn’t just George Floyd’s name heard at protests across Buffalo this summer. The names of Quentin Suttles, Wardel ‘Meech’ Davis, and Cariol Horne were all chanted as a national fight against systematic racism continues. Photographer Tito Ruiz was on the front line with protestors to capture the emotion felt locally in Western New York’s fight for racial justice. Now, more than 30 of his large prints are on display as part of a solo exhibit at CEPA Gallery.


The em-power of music in the Women's Suffrage Movement

Aug 26, 2020
Mary Brennan Taylor / Kenan Center

Music isn't just easy on the ears, it has been used as a rallying cry by political and social movements for centuries. As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of a woman's right to vote being signed into law today, WBFO took a look at the em-powerful role music played in the Suffrage Movement.

City of Buffalo

For three decades, John Brent shaped the face of Buffalo as the architect for the Parks Department, then memory of him fell off our collective memory. Now that has changed.

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