The American heartland is full of great characters – and a bunch of them are making their way to the Chapel Hill stage this weekend.
PlayMakers Repertory Company wraps up its PRC2 series this weekend with a one-man show called “The Real Americans,” written and performed by NYC-based playwright/journalist Dan Hoyle based on interviews conducted with Americans across the country. (The Huffington Post called the end result “nothing short of brilliant.”)
Hoyle – a master of many voices who specializes in “journalistic theater” – says he drove across the country in a van, avoiding the interstates, stopping in small towns and talking with folks about their lives. (How many interviews did he conduct? It’s hard to say: Hoyle says some of his best material came from random encounters that hardly count as ‘interviews’ at all.)
Dan Hoyle spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
“The Real Americans” runs through Sunday, May 1, with shows at 7:30 pm each night and 2 pm on Sunday. Visit PlayMakersRep.org for tickets.http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/playmakers-wraps-up-season-with-real-americans
It’s bloody, gory, grisly, morbid…and hilariously funny. And it’s one of the most beloved musicals of all time.
PlayMakers Repertory Company is wrapping up its 2015-16 mainstage season with the Sondheim classic “Sweeney Todd.” Helmed by New York-based director Jen Wineman and starring Broadway vets David St. Louis and Annie Golden (you’ve seen Golden as Norma on “Orange is the New Black”), “Sweeney” tells the tale of a falsely-imprisoned barber and his quest for revenge on the sinister judge who wronged him. (He also takes out a fair bit of vengeance on society as a whole. “It’s man devouring man, my dear, and who are we to deny it in here?”)
Following “Assassins” and “Into the Woods,” “Sweeney Todd” is PlayMakers’ third Sondheim musical in as many years. (Musical director Mark Hartman has arranged the music for all three.)
Director Jen Wineman spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
If you’d like to attend the tale, “Sweeney Todd” opens on Wednesday, March 30 and runs through Saturday, April 23.
You still have about a week to head to PlayMakers Repertory Company and catch their latest production, “We Are Proud To Present…” by Jackie Sibblies Drury. (The full title is a lot longer.) It’s a powerful experience: insightful and meaningful, simultaneously funny and gut-wrenching, written and staged in a way that’s probably unlike any play you’ve seen.
I saw it a couple days ago and I’m still ruminating on it. Here’s the plot in a nutshell, to the extent that there is one: we open on six actors, three white and three black, who are in the process of developing a play (sorry: a “presentation!”) about a forgotten historical atrocity, the early-20th-century genocide of the Herero people by German colonizers in southwest Africa. (A “rehearsal Holocaust”? No, dude, an actual holocaust.) Knowing their limitations, the actors want to tell the story as realistically as possible, using only the words and experiences of the actual survivors – but all they have to work with are letters written by the German soldiers. Are we just telling yet another story about white people, with the victims pushed to the back as setpieces? What if we look inside ourselves for inspiration? If we do that, won’t we just end up talking about American racism, with the Herero forgotten? Is there any way of avoiding that in the first place? Is that enough?
(Most plays, when you describe the plot, you talk about one event followed by another. In this play, the plot is one new question following another.)
I want to get the word out about this play now because…well, if you’re not a theatergoer, this has been happening right under your nose without your knowing it, but for the last year now, PlayMakers has been having a really incredible run of plays that speak directly to today’s headlines with remarkable specificity.
I think it started last year with a play called “An Enemy of the People,” which basically called the Flint water crisis six months before it hit the news. A perfectly well-meaning but ultimately self-serving businessman tries to cut costs and inadvertently winds up poisoning a town’s water supply; political and cultural leaders are in cahoots with the business leader, so they look the other way; and the whistleblower who tries to warn people is demonized and ostracized. (Presumably not long after the play ends, the town is forced to admit the whistleblower had been right all along, at which point Play Marco Rubio gets up and delivers a speech about how it’s not nice to point fingers.)
Then this season began with a taut little show called “Disgraced,” which just so happened to hit the stage at the exact moment Donald Trump started winning polls and the Syrian refugee crisis became a cover story. A New York lawyer, Pakistani by birth, denies his heritage and rejects Islam as a backwards faith – but he still winds up losing a promotion, losing his friends, losing his family, and losing his job when he speaks up for an imam who’s being unjustly persecuted. (And how much has he really renounced the “backwards” side of the faith?) “Disgraced” was a hit-or-miss show for me, but there’s a dinner-party scene I still think about, so smart and complex and well-staged and powerful…and the title of the show is endlessly fascinating. “Disgraced.” The main character is “disgraced” by the end, but at what point does he become “disgraced”? Is it at the end of the dinner party when he reveals his ugly side? Is it when he speaks up on behalf of a social pariah? Is it when he first denies his heritage? Nope – as far as white America is concerned, he’s actually “disgraced” before the play even begins. If your background is Middle Eastern or Muslim, Americans will assume you’re a potential terrorist unless you prove otherwise – it’s our default setting – so it’s not enough to deny your heritage, you have to acknowledge and loudly denounce it, or else you’re automatically suspect. (If you just deny it, then, gosh, you’re hiding something. What are you trying to hide?) All of this played out on stage in Chapel Hill while, at the same time, just down the road, our own governor was standing in front of the cameras proudly refusing to accept any more so-called “refugees” because golly gosh, how do we know they’re not secretly terrorists? The timing was impeccable.
And now we have “We Are Proud to Present,” which is playing on stage right now – even as Donald Trump encourages his supporters to assault black protestors at rallies across the country – and even as the facts are still coming in about yet another police shooting. (We shouldn’t judge individual cases until all the details are in. We should be conscious, though, that statistically blacks and whites get treated differently, not just ‘somewhere else’ but also right here, not just by police but by society as a whole, not just by other people but also by ourselves.)
If you’ve been keeping up with PlayMakers recently, you already know what I’m talking about.
If you haven’t been following them – well, it’s worth being aware. They’ve been incredibly prescient lately, when it comes to choosing plays. Their shows always hit the stage right when the relevant issue becomes especially salient. It’s an uncanny talent.
Why am I mentioning this now, you ask?
Their next show is “Sweeney Todd.” Don’t switch your stylist.
It might be the longest title in PlayMakers Repertory Company history.
PRC’s next mainstage production is (deep breath) “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915,” by Jackie Sibblies Drury – opening Wednesday, February 24, and running through Sunday, March 13.
The title is irreverent and comical, but it also refers to the troubling specter of colonialism and its aftermath – and fittingly, director Desdemona Chiang says the play too is wildly funny but also highly challenging. It’s about a group of actors in the present day, white and black, rehearsing a performance piece about a little-known colonial genocide (which really happened); the actors are well-intentioned, of course, but along the way their own assumptions and prejudices come to the fore – with “powerful, surprising, and terrifying” results.
Desdemona Chiang spoke last week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
“We Are Proud to Present” has played to rave reviews in New York; it’s making its Chapel Hill debut with PlayMakers.
Related special events include a discussion with the director and cast at Fearrington Village’s Granary Cafe on Monday, February 15, at 6 pm; an all-access performance with sign language interpretation and audio description on March 1; and free post-show discussions sponsored by the NC Psychoanalytic Society on March 12 and 13.
Visit the PlayMakers site for ticket information.http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/playmakers-proud-to-present-proud-to-present
It’s one of the most iconic plays of all time, and a new version of it is coming to Chapel Hill.
PlayMakers Repertory Company is staging Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” newly translated by Libby Appel, beginning Wednesday, January 20, and running through Sunday, February 7. The show will be directed by Vivienne Benesch, who recently took over from Joseph Haj as PlayMakers’ new producing artistic director.
“Three Sisters” is the story of Olga, Masha and Irina, sisters living in a provincial Russian town who yearn to move to Moscow but never quite seem to make it there. Benesch actually agreed to direct it even before she knew she’d be taking over as artistic director. “Life and art sometimes play the very best tricks on us,” she says. “I cannot think of a more perfect work to engage in at this moment than Chekhov’s vibrant meditation on the nature of time, love and our unexpected journey through life.”
Vivienne Benesch spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.
For a full schedule, information about related special events, and a link to purchase tickets, visit PlayMakersRep.org.http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/three-sisters-arrive-at-playmakers-say-theyll-reach-moscow-soon
It’s a family drama saga that’s half a century in the making, with roots going back almost 300 years.
Not quite your typical visit home for the holidays.
PlayMakers Repertory Company‘s PRC² series continues this month with “Highway 47,” a one-woman show written and performed by KJ Sanchez. Sanchez is the founding CEO of American Records and a voice actor who’s appeared on “Dora the Explorer” – but for this piece, she dug into her fascinating family history.
“Highway 47” is about a family dispute, but that’s only the beginning – or, more accurately, the end. It’s a story that began in 1734, when settlers were granted land in New Mexico. (You may have seen some of that land yourself: all the middle-of-the-desert scenes from “Breaking Bad” were filmed there.) More than two centuries later, with all the descendants of those settlers still holding the deeds, a legal dispute broke out (with Sanchez’s father at the center) that tore families apart and lasted nearly 50 years.
After the dust finally settled, Sanchez set out to write the story. Interviewing major players on all sides (including people who’d been her family’s enemies for decades), she pieced together a play that explores the conflict while also examining her own relationship with her father.
“My mother asked me not to tell you this story until she was dead,” she says in the play.
WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with KJ Sanchez.
“Highway 47” runs at PlayMakers from Wednesday, January 6, through Sunday, January 10. Shows are 7:30 pm every night in PlayMakers’ Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre, with an additional matinee show at 2 pm Sunday.
It’s a play about four young writers who sign up for a master class taught by a legendary novelist, as performed by four young actors who are currently studying under the man playing the writer. Hold on to your hats.
PlayMakers Repertory Company‘s 2015-16 mainstage season continues with “Seminar,” an acclaimed 2011 comedy by Theresa Rebeck. (Rebeck is the creator of the NBC show “Smash” and a former writer/producer for “NYPD Blue” and “Law and Order,” among many other credits; her plays have been compared favorably with Neil Simon’s.) It stars PlayMakers vet Ray Dooley as the aforementioned legendary novelist; Dooley is also the head of UNC’s Professional Actor Training Program, so he’s very familiar with the mentor role. (Though he says he doesn’t perform it in quite the same way as his character.)
The show opens on Wednesday, October 14, and runs through November 1 in the Paul Green Theatre on Country Club Road. It’s directed by Michael Dove, a Helen Hayes Award winner who serves as artistic director at the Forum Theatre in Washington, DC.
Ray Dooley spoke about “Seminar” with WCHL’s Aaron Keck this week.
For ticket information and a schedule of related special events, visit this page on PlayMakersRep.org.http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/master-class-seminar-at-playmakers
Theater season has begun in Chapel Hill!
PlayMakers Repertory Company kicks off its mainstage season on Wednesday with “Disgraced,” a Pulitzer-winning comedy-drama by Ayad Akhtar about an upwardly mobile Pakistani-American lawyer who finds himself confronted with his Muslim heritage. “Disgraced” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013; it’s also won an Obie Award and a Tony nomination.
Shishir Kurup is directing PlayMakers’ production at the invite of former artistic director Joseph Haj. A member of Los Angeles’ Cornerstone Theatre Company, Kurup is a veteran of numerous films and TV shows and he’s performed and directed at theaters across the country, from New York to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Describing the play as a “roller coaster,” Kurup says it’s particularly timely for Chapel Hill, in the wake of the recent murders of three Muslim students earlier this year. Theater, he says – and especially comedy – offers a way for people and communities to confront deep-seated and difficult issues they otherwise might not be willing to engage.
Shishir Kurup spoke on Monday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
The show runs through Sunday, October 4, with special events scheduled throughout the run. Visit PlayMakersRep.org for more details and ticket info.http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/playmakers-opens-mainstage-season-with-disgraced
Sit down, you’re rocking the boat!
PlayMakers Repertory Company hit the stage this week with their Summer Youth Conservatory show, “Guys and Dolls.”
Featuring a cast and crew of middle and high school students from 14 different Triangle-area schools, “Guys and Dolls” is one of Broadway’s most iconic shows, with songs like the classic “Luck Be A Lady” and some of the most memorable characters in theater history.
It’s the annual show of PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory – which offers students a chance to learn the craft with some of the most accomplished theater stars in the Triangle. This year’s show is directed by Jeffrey Meanza, PRC’s associate artistic director and a veteran of numerous PlayMakers shows.
Meanza spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
“Guys and Dolls” opened on Wednesday and runs through Saturday, July 25. Get tickets and more info online at PlayMakersRep.org.http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/guys-and-dolls-rolls-into-playmakers
PlayMakers Repertory Company has announced its 2015/16 season, highlighted by a Sondheim favorite, a Chekhov classic, and a round-the-world theatrical journey.
The season will open in September with Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” about a Pakistani-American lawyer who’s abandoned his Muslim roots. From there, highlights include Stephen Sondheim’s diabolical (and beloved) musical “Sweeney Todd” and the world premiere of a new translation of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” – a play that PlayMakers skewered just this year in Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike.” Associate artistic director Jeffrey Meanza describes the season as a journey around the world – from London to Russia to Africa and beyond.
Jeffrey Meanza spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
For the full season lineup, visit PlayMakersRep.org/1516.http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/playmakers-1516-season-features-sisters-sweeney