WBEZ | Tony Kushner http://www.wbez.org/tags/tony-kushner Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Daily Rehearsal: Ask Carol Burnett anything in Joliet http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-04/daily-rehearsal-ask-carol-burnett-anything-joliet-98335 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/carol burnett.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. Nina Metz seemed pleased</strong></span></span> with <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/theaterloop/ct-ent-0418-butcher-review-20120418,0,5682888.story"><em>The Butcher of Baraboo</em> at A Red Orchid</a>. Even though "the plot&nbsp;never quite comes together in the second act", she writes,&nbsp;"I found I was willing to overlook them all, thanks to [playwright&nbsp;Marisa]&nbsp;Wegrzyn's 'bring it' sensibility."</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2. <em>Show Theodora</em> from Oh Theodora</strong></span></span> is the <a href="http://www.avclub.com/chicago/articles/show-theodora,72148/"><em>A.V. Club</em>'s latest pick</a> for their series The New Pollution, about events that you should go to but are less-than-famous. Describing the improv group as a "relatively young team [that] has quickly become one of the preeminent independent sketch groups in Chicago", the group has an open run at the Pub Theater every third Wednesday of the month. They're different, argues Matt Byrne, because they have a "no stand-up, no improv" rule, and invite performances from all other types of comedians.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. You might think that actors</strong></span></span> can subdivide their characters lives from their personal ones, but just like you get wrapped up in work drama, they do too. So argues this <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/theater/clybourne-park-looks-at-race-relations-in-59-and-today.html?_r=1&amp;ref=theater"><em>New York Times</em> article</a> on the Broadway edition of<em> Clybourne Park</em> (which seems to have gone on<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-07/daily-rehearsal-jonathan-groff-sanaa-lathan-join-boss-96175"> despite all the fuss</a>). However, the<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/08/07/theater/20110807-clybourne-9.html"> attached slideshow</a> says&nbsp;<em>Clybourne Park</em> will be opening at Steppenwolf in September, when most of us <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-03/mpaact-and-steppenwolf-both-take-chicagos-history-segregation-92707">already saw it last fall</a>. Whoops. Anyway,&nbsp;“If somebody hurts your feelings, you remember that feeling — it lives in you,” actress Crystal A. Dickinson told the <em>Times </em>about dealing with racial epithets thrown around in the play.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. When nab someone like Tony Kushner for an interview</strong></span></span>, you want to include it all. In <a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/theater/15263581/tony-kushner-interview-outtakes"><em>TimeOut</em>'s outtakes</a>, we learn that he loves <em>RuPaul's Drag Race </em>and considers the fact that the show is on a sign that things really have changed, for the better.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/9gqQYuipF7U" width="480"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Carol Burnett </strong></span></span>will be at the <a href="http://www.rialtosquare.com/carol_burnett.asp">Rialto </a>in Joliet May 8th and 9th for<em>&nbsp;Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett: A Conversation with Carol Where the Audience Asks the Questions.</em></p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Wed, 18 Apr 2012 09:11:50 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-04/daily-rehearsal-ask-carol-burnett-anything-joliet-98335 Pot pourri: The NEA, tax credits (more) and other stuff http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-09/pot-pourri-nea-tax-credits-more-and-other-stuff-97134 <p><p>Seems as if I just finished reporting the Congressional stupidities over 2012 funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (after 10 months of delays and dithering, Congress approved precisely what President Obama had requested) and now here we are again, with the White House budget proposals for Fiscal 2013.</p><p>The President has proposed $154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which would be a badly-needed increase of $8 million from the Fiscal 2012 figure of $146 million. Both years' figures are substantially below the $168 million of FY 2010, which was the biggest NEA budget in over 20 years (but not an all-time high). If approved at $154 million, Federal funding for the arts would be just fifty cents per capita, among the lowest rates of support in the developed world. The White House also has requested $154 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities.</p><p>Last year, in what has become an annual event, Congressional conservatives proposed various amendments to drastically slash the NEA budget or eliminate the agency altogether. What was a different is that Republicans in the House joined most Democrats in defeating such proposals after an outpouring of public support. As this year is both a Congressional and a Presidential election year, we might actually have a budget sooner rather than later, so that members of the House and Senate can get out and politick about who's to blame for it.</p><p>Last week I wrote about the new Illinois law providing tax credits for Broadway shows playing here, each of which must receive "an accredited theater production certificate" from the state. A few of you asked, "What the hell is that?" And I wondered myself. So, here's the deal.</p><p>The live theater program is run through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and has an annual cap of $2 million in tax credits it may award (that is, $2 million in taxes that aren't collected). A production company may use this credit against its state income tax liability equal to 20% of the production's Illinois labor costs and 20% of the company's Illinois production spending. The production must spend a minimum of $100,000 in Chicago, it must play a venue of at least 1,200 seats and it must be a show that either will appear on Broadway within 12 months of its Chicago run, or will play Chicago for more than eight weeks. No doubt the State of Illinois will have some mid-level DCEO bureaucrat earning a six-figure salary overseeing the rules and granting the accredited production certificates.</p><p>Several shows coming this calendar year are taking advantage of the program. <em>Jersey Boys</em>, returning to Chicago for the third time, will play the Bank of America Theatre for nine weeks (April 5-June 2). In October, the same theater will host the pre-Broadway try-out of <em>Kinky Boots</em>, a musical based on the Brit film, featuring Cyndi Lauper hit songs and starring Lauper herself. Finally, the Tony Award winning musical, <em>The Book of Mormon</em>, will open at the Bank of American Theatre for a run of at least three months. Next year probably will see double that number, including at least one other pre-Broadway show.</p><p>Every now-and-then a brave theater troupe in town takes a crack at producing two or more shows in rotating rep. We have three such examples in the coming weeks, or two-and-a-half depending on whether you count the two parts of Tony Kushner's <em>Angels in America</em> as one play or two. Whichever, Court Theatre is offering Part I, <em>Millennium Approaches</em>, and Part II, <em>Perestroika</em>, in rep March 30-June 3. On select days you'll be able to see both parts. FYI: this will be the first production of Kushner's newly-revised version of <em>Perestroika</em>.</p><p>Days later, the Striding Lion Performance Group offers two world premiere dance theater works in rep, both featuring "historically and geographically inspired choreography" by company artistic director Anne Beserra. The two works are <em>The Jenkins Farm Project</em>, based on Besarra's own family's rural history, and <em>Remember the . . . (Alamo),</em> the resonance of which should be obvious. Striding Lion performs at The Viaduct, April 19-29.</p><p>Finally, Chicago Folks Operetta offers new translations of two forgotten operettas from the Viennese tradition, Emmerich Kalman's <em>The Circus Princess</em> (not seen locally in 85 years) and Eduard Kunneke's <em>The Cousin from Nowhere</em>. Although just a few years old, Chicago Folks Operetta has been receiving high marks from critics for its enterprising repertory and solid musical values. The two <em>schlag-acious</em> works will be performed June 8-July 1 at the Chopin Theatre.</p><p>"The time has come, the Walrus said, "to speak of many things; Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings; And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings."</p></p> Fri, 09 Mar 2012 21:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-09/pot-pourri-nea-tax-credits-more-and-other-stuff-97134 Short plays settle for less http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-17/short-plays-settle-less-96504 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-17/4610197524_15b3a653c5.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It’s like global warming: a lot of the evidence is anecdotal rather than empirical. But over the last decade at least, plays have been getting shorter and shorter. Are playwrights at fault? Do they realize they can earn the same bucks (if they earn anything at all) for a 75 minute show as for one twice that length? Or are audiences with shrinking attention spans demanding shorter performances? Whichever it may be—and you’ll have my opinion by the end of this post—a good night out in theater almost always is briefer than it used to be.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-17/4610197524_15b3a653c5.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 372px;" title="Caryl Churchill's 'A Number' runs a mere 55 minutes. (Flickr/TEDx NJLibraries)"></p><p>Right now in Chicago, you’ll be hard-pressed to spend even two hours in a playhouse, let alone longer. <em>American Idiot</em>, the Tony Award winning musical at the Oriental, runs 95 minutes. <em>Feast: An Intimate Tempest</em> at Chicago Shakespeare Theater is 75 minutes. <em>Punk Rock</em> at Griffin Theatre is less than two hours without an intermission. <em>dark play or stories for boys</em> (sic) at Collaboraction is 90 minutes straight through. <em>Race</em> at the Goodman, <em>Disgraced</em> at American Theater Company, Hesperia at Writers’ Theatre and <em>Love and Money</em> at Steep Theatre also are current attractions clocking in at 100 minutes or less.</p><p>One argument is that the attention span of audiences is shorter due to TV, internet, multi-tasking and our ability to absorb images more quickly; a proposition I firmly and adamantly reject. The vast number of theaters presenting three-hour-plus works by Shakespeare, O’Neill, Chekhov and other authors gives that argument the lie. Some of our most popular works are long plays, among them <em>A Streetcar Named Desire</em>, <em>Death of a Salesman</em>, <em>Angels in America</em> (either part) and musicals such as <em>South Pacific</em> and <em>A Fiddler on the Roof</em>. Audiences sit through these works with only one intermission typically.</p><p>What’s more, film patrons eagerly stay glued to their seats <em>without</em> an intermission for films running two-to-three hours in length. Some may take a potty break or hit the concessions stand, but most do not. Not so very long ago, the standard length for a movie was 90 minutes while theater <em>always</em> was two-and-a-half hours or more. It’s ironic that the profiles have reversed. The point is, however, that there’s ample evidence that audience attention span is NOT a compelling argument for shorter plays, so we must look to the playwrights themselves.</p><p>My colleague, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-16/brevity-soul-wit-96475">Kelly Kleiman, puts forward an economic argument in her current blog post</a>, and there’s some truth to it: generally it will be cheaper for a theater to produce a one-set play with two or three or four characters, which is the profile of shorter works for the most part (musicals such as <em>American Idiot</em> being an exception). Still, I say look to the playwrights. Beyond economics, it’s very, very difficult for a writer to sustain interest in only two or three characters over a stretch of two or more hours. Yes, Tennessee Williams does it in <em>The Glass Menagerie</em> and Albee in <em>Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?</em> and O’Neill in <em>Long Day’s Journey Into Night</em> but they are exceptions by master playwrights.</p><p>Conversely, it’s virtually impossible to create a play with 10 or 12 or more characters and multiple sub-plots in 90 or 100 minutes. An author simply doesn’t have time to develop that many characters and situations.</p><p>And here we must look at how playwriting is taught, as dramatic authors mostly come out of academic programs nowadays rather than materializing spontaneously. Writing exercises very often call for an author to create a two-character or three-character scene based on a particular situation or goal, but almost never are authors-in-training asked to create an eight-character or 10-character scene. Young playwrights are not asked to envision and outline larger works, say an epic history play in the manner of Shakespeare, or a three-act drama in the manner of Chekhov, or a multi-generational work in the manner of whomever. Those few writers who do just that usually come to such works after they’ve been writing awhile and often through mighty struggles. Tony Kushner worked on <em>Angels in America</em> for 10 years.</p><p>I could continue to discuss this subject at much greater length, and astute observers certainly could counter my arguments with numerous examples such as Sarah Ruhl’s ambitious <em>Passion Play</em> or the type of large stories the House Theatre of Chicago and Lookingglass often develop for, and within, their own ensembles. I’ve made my points, however, so this probably is a good place to stop. I’ll close with just one final example.</p><p>The ultimate reduction in playwriting so far may be <em>A&nbsp;Number</em>&nbsp;by award-winning British playwright Caryl Churchill. Produced successfully in London, New York, Chicago (at the Next Theatre Company) and elsewhere, this two-character play runs just 55 minutes but is sold as a full-length evening standing on its own.</p><p>The Churchill play is NOT a full evening, no matter how you slice, dice or julienne it. Even though the Next Theatre production was extremely well-done (far better than the New York staging), it should have been part of a double bill of two one-act plays. If Churchill insisted by contract that it had to be staged as a stand-alone work, then she should be drummed out of the business. Simply put: it is exploitive capitalism at its worst to extract a full ticket price from audiences for less than a full evening of theater. Then again, <em>caveat emptor.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Feb 2012 17:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-17/short-plays-settle-less-96504 Daily Rehearsal: Angels in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-17/daily-rehearsal-angels-chicago-96501 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-17/AP060727038626.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-17/AP060727038626.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 204px; " title="Tony Kushner (AP/Paul Hawthorne)"><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. Tony Kushner will be speaking</strong></span></span> at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's spring dinner on March 27, reports the Associated Press. It will be held at the Hilton.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2.&nbsp;Stephen Sondheim will be honored</strong></span></span> at the Music Institute of Chicago's 82nd Gala with the Duskin Award, named after MIC's founder Dorothy and David Dushkin. Former recipients include Richard Muti, Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming and Placido Domino.&nbsp;It will be held at the the Four Seasons. Tickets are $550, <em>not </em>$600, as the original press release stated. Spend that money on a new pair of shoes for when you and Stevie become besties.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. The MaryKay Letourneau Players</strong></span></span> has been extended at iO through March 11.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/16/august-osage-county-meryl-streep-julia-roberts_n_1281350.html">have been cast</a></strong></span></span> in the movie version of Tracy Letts' <em>August: Osage County.</em> Let the worry commence: Will they ruin it? Can Meryl do no wrong, still? How is it possible that they haven't been in a movie together yet?</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. The Dueling Critics</strong></span></span> were on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-17/short-plays-settle-less-96504"><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> this morning</a>. After Jonathan was missing last week, I'm sure you want them to get back to their fighting.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-17/daily-rehearsal-angels-chicago-96501 Daily Rehearsal: 'Metamorphoses' returns to Lookingglass http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/daily-rehearsal-metamorphoses-returns-lookingglass-after-decades-96 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-15/AP02060204391.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-15/AP02060204391.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 213px; height: 300px; " title="Mary Zimmerman accepts her Tony (AP/Suzanne Plunkett)"><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/March-2012/100-Most-Powerful-Chicagoans-Robert-Falls/">Bob Falls</a></strong></span></span>, <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/March-2012/100-Most-Powerful-Chicagoans-Martha-Lavey/">Martha Lavey</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/March-2012/100-Most-Powerful-Chicagoans-Deborah-Rutter/">Deborah Rutter</a>, <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/March-2012/100-Most-Powerful-Chicagoans-Michelle-Boone/">Michelle Boone</a>&nbsp;and <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/March-2012/100-Most-Powerful-Chicagoans-Andrew-Alexander/">Andrew Alexander</a> have all been named in <em>Chicago Magazine</em>'s list of 100 Most Powerful Chicagoans. Not an incredibly shocking selection for the arts and performance-minded among us, but who do you think they missed?</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2. Here is a photo of Tony Kushner</strong></span></span>'s special <a href="http://www.courttheatre.org/blog/comments/angels_in_america_first_rehearsal/">Tony Kushner-labeled mug</a>. It's like the coffee version of a director's chair.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. Lookingglass Theatre Company has announced</strong></span></span> it's opening its 25th Season this fall by circling back to <em>Metamorphoses</em>, which they produced in 1998. Most exciting is the news that Mary Zimmerman, who won a Tony when the show went to Broadway in 2002, will return to direct again, first reported <a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/theater/15120755/mary-zimmermans-metamorphoses-to-return-to-lookingglass">Kris Vire yesterday</a>. <em>Metamorphoses </em>is based on many of Ovid's stories; Artistic Director Andy White calls it "one of those rare productions that truly has it all: beauty, mystery, humor, pathos." He also notes that it was Lookingglass' "longest-running hit." &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Oracle has added</strong></span></span>&nbsp;new staff members: Franki Jo Levinson as Managing Director and Danielle Stack as Sponsor Manager.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Street Tempo, the new theater </strong></span></span>that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-15/daily-rehearsal-offensive-comments-about-not-vulgar-enough-musical-">got mixed reviews</a> after their first production, will open <em>Little Shop of Horrors</em> in early April. Artistic Director and founder Brian Posen says that it'll be "a refreshing take on a musical theatre classic."&nbsp;</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Wed, 15 Feb 2012 17:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/daily-rehearsal-metamorphoses-returns-lookingglass-after-decades-96