Drama School 101: Read the Fucking Play

I never made it to Shakespeare in the Park last year. I don’t know why but the entire season just flew by before I could decide whether or not to go line up one morning. And truth be told, their current (well, it’s closing tonight) production of Julius Caesar almost did, too. Julius Caesar isn’t one of my favorites and I didn’t think there was anyone in it of note. THEN the media on the right started kicking and screaming like the little snowflakes that they are and I was like, “OKAY, I’VE GOTTA SEE THIS.” I tried playing the lottery via TodayTix all week and finally had last night free and decided to take a little sign down to the Public and try to get a ticket.

When I asked where the stand-by line was, they said there wasn’t any because the show was sold out. So silly. There are always extra tickets. Anyways, there were already protesters there (protesting IN favor) when I arrive at 5:15pm and it only grew while I waited with my little sign (almost getting ticketed, multiple times, because apparently you’re not allowed to “solicit” in Central Park. Sorry, dudes, I just wanted a ticket, not soliciting for sex).  I read Imogen Lloyd-Webber’s, “The Intelligent Conversationalist” while I waited and watched the cops arrive as the counter protests (pro-Trump, anti-production) arrived – two old, white senior citizens – and the barricades went up. There was a blonde girl protesting in support of the production screaming her head off. I wanted to tell her to STFU because she was our side look bad because she looked like a lunatic, but I decided not to.

Around 7:10pm, a woman around my age was walking by when she saw my sign and said, “Oh, I think I might have an extra ticket. I don’t think my friend is coming, hold on.” And after she went to the box office, another guy came up to me and said he might have an extra one, as well. The woman came back first, and I gave my sign to another guy who was waiting around for a ticket (who I think was given the ticket that the second person who approached me had. Yay, teamwork). I grabbed a chicken wrap and a beer from the concession stand, watched some more of the protest, and then took my seat.

The audience was allowed onstage, to sign banners, and it was all pretty awesome. Then at 8:10, Oskar Eustis’ voice came on the PA system and told us about who was sponsoring the show, and added that despite his statement in the program, there was one line that was changed and we’d all know what it was when it came. AHHHH.

Continue reading “Drama School 101: Read the Fucking Play”

The Weekend

This weekend was oh-so nice. It started on Friday night when J and I went down to The Library (the bar at the Public) to celebrate his birthday with his friends, many of whom I just adore. It was super fun, though we both probably consumed far too much alcohol. 

We ordered in carb-loaded breakfasts from my local diner the next morning to fight our hangovers before going to see Avenue Q at New World Stages. It was my first time seeing it since 2005 or 2006 and it totally holds up. I’ll write about it more in depth later on but it’s still so great. J loved it SO, SO much. He couldn’t stop talking about it the entire weekend. Now he’s all, “I’m sure Hamilton’s great, but is it funnier than Avenue Q? Probably not.” 

He had to run home and I had to go home to see my cat and take a nap, but we met back up later on to go meet his friend from DC who he hadn’t seen in 3 years. We attempted to go to Flatiron Hall, but it was packed, so we went across the street to a mostly-empty bar (I can’t remember the name) and didn’t leave until probably 1am. So late. It was so exhausting but it was fun. (I nursed one beer the entire time because the thought of drinking more hurt my face.)

Sunday included a trip to Book Culture to take advantage of their 20% off sale. I hate buying books simply because they’re cheap, but I bought a Kon Mari-esque book called The Joy of LessYes Please by Amy Poehler, and Just Kids by Patti Smith. I cooked this sausage/kale/carrot noodle soup from the Inspiralized blog (it’s SO GOOD) and we watched “The Invasion” on HBOGo (it was entertaining and I’d recommend watching it if you’re bored, though it was 100% ridiculous). 

After an hour or so in the gym, I made sausage/carrot noodle/spinach/siracha rice wraps. So good. The rice wrap is kind of hard to handle but worth it not to have all the carbs of a regular wrap. 

We ended the night watching Show Business and later watching Game of Thrones (he watched, I played with my cat). I hadn’t watched Show Business in so long. It brought back so many good memories. To my shock and delight, J found it super interesting and loved seeing the progression of Avenue Q, in addition to watching Raul Esparza do theatre (currently he only knows him as DA Barba on SVU).

Overall, a solid weekend. 

I accepted a last-minute invite to see Eclipsed, a recent transfer from the Public Theatre, last Thursday night, and I knew pretty much nothing about it. I’d read that it was about women in Liberia so I knew it probably wasn’t going to be a comedy. I also knew Lupita Nyong’o was in it and although I didn’t remember her in 12 Years a Slave specifically (I saw the movie once years ago), I knew I was in for a treat.

Written by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, it took place during the political conflict in Liberia in 2003 and focused on four wives of a commanding officer of the rebels. The newest wife was Lupita and she was actually educated meaning she could read and captured after her parents were taken (I think). The wives live together in a hut and are basically just there to satisfy the CO when he needs it. 

After the conflict ends, Lupita needs to decide whether to go with the rebels or go to safety. We’re not sure which she ends up choosing. The play was intense and depressing interspersed with moments of comedic relief. All five women were excellent, especially Lupita. Saycon Sengbloh has come a long way since Wicked

This wouldn’t be my first choice for a night out at the theatre, but it was definitely a powerful piece, as well as educational. 

I saw Fun Home towards the end of it’s run at the Public back in December 2013. I really liked it but it was dark as fuck. I finally made it around to see the transfer to Broadway last night, courtesy of The League. I never really thought the transfer was a good idea, but apparently some people did.

After seeing the transfer last night, I think I liked the full 2.5-hour version at the Public more (shocker, I know). The transfer feels semi-gutted. It felt more like a play with music than a musical, to be honest, and I wasn’t a big fan of the score. The score doesn’t do much to drive the plot along. The cast though is phenomenal all around and Cerveris definitely deserved his Tony Award. 

That said, even though I didn’t go head-over-heels for it, I still think it’s an important piece of theatre. Kudos to all involved.

Some cool theatre news…

Josh Radnor and Laura Benanti will star in the revival of She Loves Me. That’s exciting – they’re both great onstage! Hopefully Radnor can sing? 

Do you like The Last 5 Years? Of course you do. You’re not stupid. A couple of songs from the film version were released. Read about it here. Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe, who starred in The Last 5 Years at Second Stage, will reprise their roles in San Francisco for three nights

John Cameron Mitchell is starting this week in the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This is, by far, the most exciting to happen to Broadway since… well, it’s been a while. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s newest musical, Hamilton, started previews at The Public tonight. Apparently it’s amazing. I hope I can score tickets somehow. 

And Clinton the Musical is coming to the stage off-Broadway at New World Stages. I’m very excited for this one. Will it be amazing? Probably not. Will it be a helluva good time? I’m predicting YES. 

I think that’s it for tonight. 

I had no idea what The Fortress of Solitude was about when my friend told me she had an extra ticket. I read that it was based on a book and Adam Chanler-Berat and Rebecca Naomi Jones were in it. So I told her I was in. I asked her if it was 90-minutes-no-intermission (#nmni) and she laughed and said, “oh no, this is a full two hours and forty five minutes.” I made sure to have an espresso milkshake from Momofuku beforehand.

It was about two boys, Mingus and Dyland, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn in the 70’s when it was still called Gowanus. Both lived with their fathers and were abandoned by their mothers. One black (Mingus), one white (Dylan), they seem to be on a good path until Dylan is accepted to Stuyvesant High School and Mingus is left on his own to attend public school in Gowanus. We see the incredibly different lives they lead and after high school Dylan runs away to UC Berkeley because that’s where his mother left him to go. He makes a career for himself as a music critic there. 

A major aspect in both of their lives is soul music: for Dylan, it’s the music on the records his mother leaves behind and for Mingus, it’s the music that his father was previously famous for. Dylan’s mother leaves behind her wedding ring which acts as a magnet bringing the boys together, and eventually resulting in their final fight as adults.

The largely ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. Allison Whitehurst deserves special recognition for dancing in roller skates. And David Rossmer didn’t let his bandaged arm and hand in a cast bring him down (he apparently sliced the tip of one of his fingers recently), he was hilarious. Rebecca Naomi Jones did a great job with her two roles; I particular enjoyed her rage in act two. Kevin Mambo, as Mingus’ father, was and is always great. Chanler-Berat was fantastic, as per usual, easily conveying the range of emotions that his character goes through. Kyle Beltran as Mingus was the other standout. His character development and decay was perfect.

The show is long – especially the first act. But if they shave twenty minutes off the first act, The Public has another Fun Home on their hands for sure.

A few weeks back I saw Here Lies Love at The Public Theatre downtown. I’d missed it’s first production but I was thrilled it was back again and I was going to be able to see it. I had listened to the cast recording one day at work a few weeks early but I still had no idea what it was about. I didn’t know who Imelda Marcos was, or even that she was a real person (Thanks, Global History, for nothing!).

I loved Sleep No More, and countless other immersive shows, but this was by far the most fun I’ve ever had a one. I got onstage and danced. I moved around with the ever-rotating set. I loved it. About 2/3 of the way through, I thought, “Um, okay, I think this is a true story,” and yes, it is. I’m an idiot sometimes.

The music is amazing. Fatboy Slim and David Byrne have outdone themselves. It is a fantastic, memorable score. Ruthie Ann Miles, Jose Llana, and Conrad Ricamora were equally brilliant in their lead roles (Imelda, Marcos, and Aquino). I especially enjoyed the DJ, who was played that night by Vincent Rodriguez III. He definitely raised the energy in the room before the performance so that we were all amped up by the time it began.

If there is one show – experience – you venture downtown for this season, it’s Here Lies Love. It’s a history lesson and theatrical experience rolled into one. 

(Disclosure: The company I work for works on Here Lies Love, but opinions are all my own.)

I saw Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Delacorte two Sundays ago after I found out my friend Steve was able to get an extra ticket for me. I missed out on Comedy of Errors, sadly, but I was stoked to see this one especially because Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman were behind the score. Oh, and did I mention that it was an hour-forty with no intermission? Lastly: the cast seemed pretty kick-ass. 

All of this was an equation for an awesome show.

Well, it had it’s moments. I would prefer to listen to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson any day (as I don’t remember any of Love’s score). The set was beautiful, the band was great (I love that the conductor was occasionally part of the cast), and the cast was pretty kick-ass.

I really enjoyed the performances that Patti Murin, Daniel Breaker, and Kevin Del Aguila gave. I thought it was really awesome to see Rory Thayer (the red head from the movie Accepted) onstage too. 

So I’ve seen better at the Delacorte, but I’ve also certainly seen worse. 

And though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.

Into the Woods is in my top-3 favorite Sondheim musicals. I was mildly enthralled with the last revival of Into the Woods in 2002. I also had a minor crush on the actor who played Jack. I saw that revival twice and memorized the words when the cast recording was released. Was it the best production ever? Probably not, but it did the trick to spark my interest in the show. When I heard it was going to be one of the shows at Shakespeare in the Park this year, I knew I wanted to see it. After the cast was announced, I knew tickets would be hard to get and after a good two weeks of playing the virtual lotto, my friend Kristen and I gave up and I volunteered to get to the park way-too-early so we could secure tickets.

We’d last waited in line together to get tickets to the 40th anniversary stage of HAIR at the Delacorte in 2007, until to last weekend. I said I’d get there at 6am and she could meet me whenever (as she lives a tad further away now).  And of course in true Public Theater tradition when I woke up last Saturday at 5, it was pouring (like last time). I grabbed my huge blue and white umbrella, a straw sun mat to sit on, some sustenance, and a fully charged cell phone and headed out.

I was 75-100th on the line but an employee from the Public assured us that we were fine and getting tickets. I slept for maybe half an hour, played around on my cell phone and watched as my yoga pants became increasingly soiled with sand and dirt. There were a few more showers, including one huge downpour. Kristen met me around 10:30 and told me to go home to change out of my soaked, dirty clothes (a command that I happily obeyed). The line grew and grew and the end was nowhere in sight around 12pm. We were eventually told to stand and we got our tickets (after which we hopped on the subway down to Second Stage to see if we could get tickets to Dogfight – score!).  Fast forward to 7:15-ish and we take our time walking to the Delacorte, grabbing sandwiches at the theatre’s cafe once we’d arrived (AWESOME sandwiches btw).


We were both exhausted from the day but totally stoked to see what we’d heard was an innovative production. The weather was perfect and the sun was beginning to set behind Belvedere Castle. James Earl Jone’s voice bellowed from the speakers, thanking their donors, and the little boy came downstage and dumped his backpack out to begin the show.

The set was incredible (as you can see above). It was one of my favorite parts of the show. Morgan James had it all wrong when she said musicianship was dead because of this production. Dead wrong. The orchestra sounded beautiful, as did the voices. The lighting was perfect, and I especially enjoyed the way in which they created the giant in the trees.

I was excited to see the wonderful Denis O’Hare as the baker, and he was as impressive as expected. Donna Murphy, as the Witch, blew me away with her interpretation and voice. I was skeptical of Amy Adams as the Baker’s Wife as I’d heard mixed things about her, but I was fully impressed equally by her acting and her voice. There may have been a high note or two that she couldn’t sustain, but overall, she was very good. Ivan Hernandez was insanely entertaining as the Wolf (also as Cinderella’s Prince, but more so as the Wolf), and his interpretation of the Wolf was intensely sexual. Lest we forget Chip Zien, as the Mysterious Man, who starred in the original Broadway production as the baker. He’s a brilliantly hilarious actor and he brought everything he had to his role.

My favorite re-interpretation of a character was provided by Sarah Stiles, as Little Red Ridinghood. She was equal parts playful, smart, edgy, obnoxious, and sexual (when it came to the Wolf). Her voice was great also, and I loved her costume (it could best be described as a mix between a traditional Little Red and Leaf Coneybear from Spelling Bee).

Honorable mentions must be made for Gideon Glick, as Jack, who was entertaining and endearing in his portrayal, and Jessie Mueller, as Cinderella, who really does have the beautiful voice that everyone said was the only reason to see On A Clear Day.

Into the Woods was three hours long, but it certainly didn’t feel like three hours. I left the theatre feeling satisfied and happy. Another magical, perfect night at the Delacorte completed. As we exited the park at 11pm, people were already lined up for the next night’s performance. Luckily for them, it wasn’t supposed to rain that night.

Memories: Shakespeare in the Park Rush Lines of the Past

There are certain theatrical events that are worth a good 12 hours on the street. This is one of them.

The last time I’d waited on an early morning line for tickets to a show was at the Public was probably 2007. Long before a HAIR revival was a glimmer in any producer’s eye, The Public presented a one-weekend only staged concert production of it in honor of its 40th anniversary. I love HAIR more than my friends (I kid, but you get the point) and I’d yet to see a professional production of it, so this was a must-see. It was also high on the priorities list for my friend Kristen who was matriculating at NYU not far from the Public at the time. I remember getting a call from Kristen around 10:30pm the night before the concert and her saying, “people are already at the Public,” and all I could reply was, “see you by eleven!” and hung up. I was living in FiDi so I packed a bag and met up with her where we chatted, slept or stayed caffeinated, ate, and played card games as the hours ticked by.

About 30 minutes before tickets were given out, the sky opened up and it not only rained, it poured. It was a little annoying, but mostly magical. Here’s photo evidence:


We went home, drenched, but with tickets in hand.

We toasted with the friends we’d made in line in front of us around noon. It was brunch time soon anyways, right?

The concert was, obviously, worth every second on the street that night. And the next summer it came back, and that season HAIR was back on Broadway.