Thursday, June 30, 2005


True Theater: An Evening With Ali Salem at Theater J

We take ourselves wherever we go, as the old saying has it, and I frequently feel that I carry a lot of baggage to the theater. My mind and heart might be crowded with previous versions of the show; newspaper reviews and perspectives; experiences with the actors, the playwright, the director, or the theater itself ("This theater does a good job with shows like this"); concerns that the person I'm with won't like the show and will blame me; perspectives of friends who have seen the show, or read the book, or read the reviews of the show, or the book, and so on. Expectations, expectations, expectations.

When it comes to the movies, I pay my money and just want to lean back and watch a good story. If it's not so good, I don't really care, even with movie ticket prices rising to ridiculous levels. But every time I go to the theater, I expect to be transported. I want my life to be illuminated. I want insights into our world; I want my level of existence raised. I want to leave the theater walking on a higher plane than the level on which I entered. I try not to feel this way, but I can't help it. It's as if going to the theater is like going on a blind date: you always hope that this will be The Evening That Changed Your Life. You know you'll probably be disappointed, but you can't help being hopeful. Every single damn time. I think even young children feel this way, or at least I hope they do, when they go to see "Peter and the Wolf" or "Peter Pan" or "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" or "Beauty and the Beast" performed with sock puppets.

"An Evening with Ali Salem," last night at Theater J, was true theater. My expectations were met, and I left the theater feeling very different than when I arrived. It was billed as "An Evening in Four Acts." (Uh-oh, I thought, how long will this be? I wasn't prepared for A Long Day's Journey Into Night. But I needn't have worried.) The first act was a classic skit by the Egyptian playwright called, "Hello, Rescue Me," in which an Egyptian tries to get the fire department to come to his aid. His wrestling with the bureaucracy was hilariously funny as the bureaucrat demanded specifications of the fire, the specific needs of the man--did he need the fire fighters, or just water to put out the fire? --and his sad situation because he lived on the fifth floor. If only he could move to a taller building where the fire department's available ladders would easily reach him! This skit reminded me of all the frustrations of the Middle East, and of the great strength of character that most people need to live there.

Humor is such a saving grace in the Middle East. It takes courage to write political satire of the kind Ali Salem writes, without anger or bitterness. He's the author of 30 plays, and was wildly successful in the Arab world, until he visited Israel in 1994. He's had trouble getting his plays produced ever since, aparently. I knew none of this when I came to the theater. I had lived in Israel for four years, and had some experience with Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese societies, but I visited Egypt just to see the pyramids and to renew my visa to Israel. What an education I received last night.

The second act, "Ali Salem Drives to Israel," was more disjointed as the author tried to drive across the Sinai desert, find a place to pee, tell his daughter where he was going, and get the skit performed of him trying to drive across the Sinai. The best part of this play was Ali Salem's dealing with the bureaucracy again. They did not want to allow him to take his car out of the country without filling out 21-page forms in triplicate. With no carbon paper. "Why no carbons?" he asked. "National security," came the answer. "But my car is older than Fidel!" "Is that a political comment?"

One could be disappointed that we don't actually see Ali Salem arrive in Israel and hear his impressions and experiences. Israel has its bureaucracy, too, just waiting for Mr. Salem's pen. (A friend of mine's saga of trying to bring her family's piano into Israel from Canada lasted for months.) But perhaps his journey is what matters for now.

Act III was an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker, who had interviewed Mr. Salem well and who of course tried to pin him down on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. By that time I had laughed so much that I felt that I could listen and deal with the conflict on a healthier level than when I entered the theater.

I lived in the Middle East for four years, and, like too many people, I have intense feelings about every grain of sand in the region. (People joke that if you complain about the weather there, Israelis get defensive and Palestinians blame the occupation).

I have friends on the far right and the far left and everywhere in between and by now I just disagree with anything anyone says about the political struggles in the Middle East. A plague on all their houses, I say sometimes, while knowing I should say, "A blessing on all their houses." But I wanted to hear what Mr. Salem said. He is a true peacenik, a minority everywhere, he pointed out. He thinks the United States should go backwards and Egypt should go forward and that would make the world more harmonious. This is said both humorously and seriously, as most of his points were made--a true skill.

Answering a specific question about what he would criticize in the United States, he at first demurred, as a guest (Arab hospitality rules are quite strict), but then said that the emblem of American society was our invention of the microwave oven. "You can't wait a few more minutes for something to get hot?" he asked. American rhythms and Arab rhythms are out of step, he said. Freedom will come to the Middle East, but not at the speed of a microwave.

And then Act IV was Q&A from the audience. There were a surprising number of Arabs at Theater J--I am so grateful when the theater brings different people together. They asked just what I would have asked: what does he think of what's happening in Lebanon? What does he think about the trial of a Mubarak opponent in Egypt? (He sidestepped this question gracefully--perhaps he'd like to get his plays produced in Egypt again. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, but the Egyptian authorities would not let him accept the award.) "Sometimes, governments lie," he said. "And sometimes they tell the true, but you can't believe them." That line won applause, but that was the most hostile thing he said, and it was not hostile, nor bitter.

Funnily enough (that is, according to Ali Salem's brand of humor), he had trouble getting into the United States. "My name is Ali Salem Muhammed Salem," he said (or something like that.) "Seventy percent of the terrorists are named Ali, or Salem, or Muhammed. But I told them that if they didn't let me into the United States, people would be laughing their heads off throughout the Middle East." They let him in, thank God.

I left feeling lighter about the Middle East, and more hopeful about life in general. You could say that it wasn't a play in the traditional sense, but was as honest and unpredictable as any evening that combined improvisation, drama, live performances and audience participation. "This is what we do," said Ari Roth, Theater J's artistic director. May they continue to do more of it.
And it was free.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Baltimore Playwrights Festival--hmmm

The Baltimore Playwrights' Festival has some intriguing and affordable offerings (of course, one must shlepp to Baltimore, but nothing in life is perfect.) Six tix for 45 bucks...details below, with many thanks to Lorraine Treanor of Brian's Theatre News, who resent me the details after I mistakenly deleted the e-mail. At least if it's on the blog, I can't lose it. -Wendy

June 26 - Aug 28
Baltimore, MD

The Baltimore Playwrights Festival XXIII Season

Six Tickets Good at ANY BPF Theatre
Good for All BPF Performances

6 for $45.00

GO TO & click 'Subscribe' also click "This Season's Slate" for the Season Schedule & Member Theatres
Blog: Just reading the descriptions of the shows is a fun way to pretend to be busy at work. Here's a sexy one that starts July 1:

July 1 - 17
Baltimore, MD

10 Plays. 5 Actors. 4 Directors. 1 Stage. What's your desire? Run of the Mill Theater is pleased to present the "Variations" project, where both award-winning and new Baltimore-area playwrights create diverse experiences around one theme: desire. 10 plays, written for this project from the same source material, capture the expansive meaning of the word desire, from love & sex to nudity & narcotics, with styles from drama & comedy to abstract & experimental. WARNING: Variations on Desire contains mature content!

The PLAYWRIGHTS: John Becker, Barbara Bryan, Joe Dennison, Chris Graybill, Gavin Heck, Stacey Lane, Kimberley Lynne, Tim Paggi, Laura Ridgeway, Rosemary Frisino Toohey,
The DIRECTORS: Carrie Klewin (Suhr), Jim Knipple, Ryan Whinnem, Stephen B. Thomas
The ACTORS: Jeremy Blaustein, Diana Cherkas, Matthew Crosby, Dahlia Kaminsky, Donna Panzer

Variations Runs July 1-17, Thurs-Sat at 8, Sun at 7. at the MOBTOWN THEATRE - 3600 Clipper Mill Road. $12 general admission, $10 seniors & BTA members, $5 students. Artscape performance(selected scenes) on July 22nd at 6:30

Opening night, JULY 1st TICKETS are $25 and include a seat in our intimate theatre, beverages (adult ones), live music by Eleven, music by DJ Half Heard, a silent auction, and foods stuffs. Tickets for "JUST THE PARTY" are available for $15 if you'd like to come see the show another night. The party will start at approximately 10:15 p.m. at the theatre. TICKETS ARE LIMITED AND ARE BEING SOLD ONLINE AT:

Sunday, June 26, 2005


Douglas Poms on Metrostage's "The Last Five Years"

This was posted to the Ushers list by Douglas Poms, and is reposted here at the request of the head Usher, Joel Markowitz, who is leading a group to the show on July 17. The link to the Ushers, and to contact Joel, is at left. --Wendy

Hi everyone,

I saw the production of the Last 5 Years at Metrostage today with Joel, my uncle and a friend. It was really wonderful. Some of us had seen the piece performed Off-Broadway with now Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz and Sheri Rene Scott (all 3-named stars in a show composed by another 3-namer Jason Robert Brown). We were blown away then by the beautiful score and top-notch performances. Many of us (and others--it has a cult following) bought the CD and listened at least 100 times. I honestly thought that no local production could equal that superlative New York one. Well, this production at Metrostage does just that.

The Matrostage production succeeds on all levels. The score is as gorgeous as ever and the small orchestra (strings) is divine. The two performers again are excellent. Tracy Olivieri as Kathy gives one of the finest performances that have graced the Washington area stage in years. We're hoping she gets a Helen Hayes for this one (truly everyone involved deserves a nomination at least). The show is very moving, effectively capturing the heartbreak of a failed marriage. The storytelling is clever (each of the couple sings about the relationship in opposite chronology). The device is very effective in illustrating the irony of feelings present at different stages in the relationship and the exuberance but eventual disappointment that promised hope brings.

I encourage you all to see this excellent production of a special show. Joel is taking a group on July 17. Enjoy!


"Take Me Out" and DC Baseball

It is truly wonderful that the Studio Theater's excellent production of "Take Me Out" happens to coincide with the revival of major league baseball in Washington, after an absence of over three decades. (I'm sure the theater and baseball schedules were carefully coordinated). At yesterday's Nationals game, George W. Bush and Condi Rice, both strong baseball fans, were present. Their attendance, of course, warranted a mention in the national press and helped promote baseball, sports, and the nation's capital as a place to come for baseball. I wonder how many members of this administration have gone to the theater in Washington.

It does so much for the theater when prominent members of government step out and participate in the cultural life of the city. I know security is a nightmare and Bush is not exactly a culture vulture, to put it mildly. Still, does anyone know if any members of Congress regularly patronize the theater? Offhand, I can think of only Abraham Lincoln--who loved the theater--as a president who went out to see shows in D.C., and his night at Ford's Theater didn't end well. Truman loved classical music. They say that culture in the Kennedy White House was really Jackie's love, and her husband went along. Perhaps the First Ladies are the best ticket to theater.

First Lady Laura Bush was at the National Theater for a performance of "I Am My Own Wife" the evening I was there. It was wonderful to know that a member of the White House was present, and I hope she told her husband about the show, which was an unforgettable performance, one of the finest shows I have ever seen. And yes, it was exciting for me as an audience member to know that I was sharing the same experience as the First Lady, who is the only member of the Bush family I can stomach.

Could she drag her husband to the Studio to see "Take Me Out"? Gimme a break--it's a show with male nudity, about a player who comes out as gay. It's not the best place to shore up the Republican base. Plus the security arrangements would be horrific (remember Abraham Lincoln). Still, one can hope, perhaps forlornly, that Washington's cultural life will have a positive impact on any administration.

A small similarity in newspaper coverage, at least in the Washington Post, persists between local coverage of the national pastime and local coverage of the theater: it's difficult to find out what's going on in either case. I have rarely been able to rely on the Post's theater reviews to know if I should go to a show. And readers of the paper now say that they can't follow the Nationals games, in a play-by-play fashion, by reading the sports section. You get "highlights," like a television news show, but can't really sense from the article if it was a good game or not.

One thing is certain: as the dog days of summer descend on DC, both baseball and the theater need increased support and bottoms in the seats. As a letter to the WashPo's editor stated today, we need to raise our voices in our distinctive chant: "We're from the government, and we're here to help! We're from the government, and we're here to help!"


Another Pay-What-You-Can, Sunday and Monday eve



by Enda Walsh

"Funny, full of sound and
movement, phenomenal..."
--Sunday Times (Ireland)

PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN June 26 & 27

Sun @ 7; Mon, Tues & Wed @ 8

TKTS/INFO: 202-595-1760

Friday, June 24, 2005


Martha, the Musical

For those who can't wait for Martha Stewart's television show to air, some kind souls have mounted a Martha Musical at:

Program credit: Thanks to for finding this oeuvre on the Web. Most performances seem to be pay-what-you-want, which, in this case, seems to be nothing.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


One More Freebie, From Egypt With Humor


Wednesday, June 29 at 7:30pm at Theater J
Free and Open to the Public
Please Call 202-777-3210 to Reserve your Tickets

Ali Salem is one of Egypt°s foremost playwrights, a passionate advocate of
humanity, and a humorist read throughout the Arab world. Ari Roth , Artistic
Director of Theater J, has been working to adapt this memoir of Ali Salem°s
breakthrough journey for the stage, reflecting back on 1994 through the prism of
current journeys.

We will be reading scenes from the adaptation with Theater J actors, directed
by John Vreeke, and reading other writings of Ali Salem°s. As a special
highlight, Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Yorker magazine staff writer (who has written
extensively on Middle East issues) will conduct a public interview with Ali


Pay-What-You-Can Shows

Here are a few upcoming Pay What You Can Shows. I live on these and am so grateful for them!

THEATER J presents
By Woody Allen
Directed by Steve Carpenter
Featuring Julie-Ann Elliott, Kathryn Kelley, Michael Kramer, John Lescault
and Vanessa Vaughn

June 25, 2005 - July 24, 2005

Uproarious, irreverent, and full of good old fashion raging vitriol, these
two never-before-paired plays call to mind Woody Allen's funniest cinematic
moments while suggesting an embrace of theater as Allen's new artistic home.
RIVERSIDE DRIVE presents a never-before-seen Allen creation; a derelict homeless
genius who challenges a compromised screenwriter's tenuous equipoise. In
CENTRAL PARK WEST, Allen's star-crossed couples hurl accusations and insults with
vengeful glee and liberating abandon. The perfect summer comedy for these
astringent times!

Order Regular Tickets Before June 28th and Get $5 Off!!!
Call 800-494-TIXS or visit
For groups call 202-777-3214 or email
Saturday, June 25 at 8:00 pm, Sunday, June 26 at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Tickets are available at the door one hour before curtain.
UNDER 25 TICKETS: Discount for the under 25 crowd!! $10 AT THE DOOR/$15 ONLINE
Theater J is located at 1529 16th St NW (Dupont Metro).
For more information call 202-777-3229 or 202-518-9400
or visit them on the web at
Open Circle Theatre is offering six [6], yes six, PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN preview
performances over the July 4th holiday.

@ Round House Silver Spring

The Caucasian Chalk Circle
By Bertolt Brecht
July 1 - 24, 2005
Performance Dates and Times
Mondays: Theater dark; no performances.
Tuesday: July 5 at 8pm
Wednesday: July 6 at 8pm, Opening Night
Thursdays: July 7 & 21 at 8pm
Fridays: July 1, 8, 15, & 22 at 8pm
Saturdays: July 2, 9, 16, & 23 at 2pm & 8pm
Sundays: July 3, 10, 17, & 24 at 2pm & 7pm
Preview Performances
July 1, 2, 3, & 5 and are Pay What You Can (PWYC).
Opening Night/Press Night: July 6.
post-show discussions
Join the Directors and actors in a lively, interactive Q & A session.
Saturday, July 16, following the 2 pm matinee.

Location and Directions
Round House Theatre Silver Spring is located at 8641 Colesville Road, between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring, adjacent to the AFI/Silver Theatre and two blocks from the Silver Spring station on Metrorail Red Line.
Visit Round House's website for driving directions.
Tickets $20
To purchase tickets with a credit card, please go to or
call 800-494-8497.
To make a reservation and pay at the door (cash or check only), please call
240/683-8934. Reservations will be taken until 5:30 PM the day of the
performance you wish to attend.
Press contact: Selene Faer
(202) 256-1721
You can also go to
About the Play
The Caucasian Chalk Circle was Bertolt Brecht's last major work, written
while he was an exile in the U.S. during World War II. It's a parable; in this instance drawn from the. Biblical tale of the Judgment of Solomon and the old Chinese play "The Circle of Chalk". [snippet]

While full of song, broad comedy and highly dramatic moments, what we have is Brecht's use of emotional storytelling to set out the subtext of the effects of war on individual lives, personal responsibility, human choices in the face of profound difficulty and the paradoxes of life.
Courtesy of
CHEAP TIX FOR A GREAT SHOW. Not sure if "this e-mail" can include "this blog entry" but go for it...if it's not kosher to post this, I'm sure someone will let me know.

$15 with mention of this email!
The Beauty Queen
of Leenane
a play by Martin McDonagh
directed by Mark A. Rhea
featuring Nanna Ingvarsson as Maureen, Linda High as Mag, Scott Graham as
Pato and Joe Baker as Ray.

June 23 °V July 23
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 PM
Sunday matinees at 2 PM

but opening weekend, Keegan is offering them for only $15 to anyone on The
Keegan Theatre email list! Simply print this message off and bring to the box
office for your 'Keegan Friends' Opening Weekend $15 Discount Ticket'!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Headman's Holiday--Recommended, Closes This Weekend

Lorraine Trenor, a trusted theater-goer, recommends "Headman's Holiday," at the Theater Alliance. She had trouble posting, as did many other people, who e-mailed me privately. And they told me Blogger was the EASIEST blog around. I'm so sorry. I will try to make it easier for anyone to start a thread, especially to recommend what sounds like a rare and wonderful show at the Theater Alliance, (The H Street Playhouse, at 1365 H Street, NE). The Web site is but I could not find directions to the theater on the site. Best to mapquest it...I think the closest Metro is Union Station. Lorraine's review is below.

Dear friends -There is an extraordinary show at Theater Alliance which closes this weekend. It is a play the likes of which, quite simply, I'm not sure we will ever see again.

Headsman's Holiday is written by Hungarian playwright Kornel Hamvia. To have seen this play before, you would have had to visit the Czech Republic or Finland. Philadelphia director Aaron Posner heard rumors of it while he was in Hungary, and eventually worked up this exuberant stage version. We are the only city fortunate enough to see this play. It takes place during one of the most chaotic times in the history of the world. The French Revolution has just occurred and the people have taken over Paris. A popular executioner must pick up his transfer papers in a city where no one holds onto his position for very long.

This gorgeous production proceeds at a breathtaking pace. It is extremely funny, thought provoking, artistically daring, innovatively staged and features an ensemble of 13 gifted actors portraying more than 50 memorable characters. The show does contain brief nudity, two sexually explicit scenes, and the language is at times coarse, if that is a consideration for you. Among all the plays you see this season, this one will stand out.

I hope you can see Headsman's Holiday before it closes this Sunday.
--Lorraine Treanor

Friday, June 17, 2005


KenCen sked & ticket prices

A little belatedly, I looked at The Kennedy Center's new 2005-2006 schedule. I think it looks terrific, not that anyone I know can afford to subscribe: The RSC is going to do The Canterbury Tales; then there are broadway musicals Wicked and Little Women (The Musical), and then The Subject Was Roses, and Mame.

I can't remember being this excited about a Kennedy Center season for quite a while.

WHen Michael Kaiser took over as KC president a few years ago, he was interviewed either on C-SPAN or NPR, and I was fascinated to hear him wonder out loud about the purpose the Kennedy Center should serve: should it bring B'way musicals like "Rent"? Should it have its own resident company to develop new strong American, or international, plays? Should it serve the city of Washington (fat chance) or be a national or international performing arts center, importing many shows from abroad? Every arts center must ask these questions, but the Kennedy Center has particular prestige, and money, and it honors a president whose White House is credited with opening Washington up as a cultural center in many ways.

Then the questions came. "Do you know how expensive it is to park at the Kennedy Center?" "Do you know how hard it is to WALK to the Kennedy Center?" "Have you ever eaten at the Kennedy Center?" "Have you ever tried to find your theater with someone from out of town on crutches?" etc. Very Washington questions. We can handle the big questions. It's the little things that cripple us.

Kaiser was gracious and informed. He DID know how expensive and inaccessible the Kennedy Center was, and the renovations, he hoped, would address that. He also knew how hard it was to find the various theaters, which are not distinctively marked. That too, may change. The improvements look dramatic and the Kennedy Center, like all of Washington, is visibly more impressive and more liveable than ever before, thanks to a few urban architecture principles that actually examined the needs of people rather than the appearance of buildings.

But of course the Kennedy Center was deliberately built to be as inaccessible to most people in Washington as possible, at a time when Washington was a much more segregated and violent city. (No WAY would they have allowed a Metro station near there--the wrong kinds of people might show up. Now they have to run that little shuttle bus back and forth from the Foggy Bottom metro. I hope it's REALLY inconvenient for the KenCen to maintain that bus. Serves 'em right.) Times have changed, and the Kennedy Center is changing, too, thank goodness--food has improved, though parking and tickets are still exorbitant. They have the Terrace Theater, with its 25 dollar tickets, but seats to the marquee shows are still 65 bucks or higher.

I can't help thinking that the ticket prices are kept so high at the Kennedy Center to keep out the riff-raff. That is not entirely fair of me--they have expenses to cover, and they charge what the market will bear. But given the history of the Kennedy Center, it would be nice to see more public gestures made towards the DC community. Can't they charge $1,000 a seat for the boxes and a few rows in the orchestra, and let the rest of us in for 15 bucks or so? They have a tradition to live down, and a name to live up to. Kaiser could be open about the finances--tell me why tickets to Wicked are $150, please. (Thank God for Joel Markowitz of the Ushers, who snags good group seats at slightly more affordable prices).

Sherri, aka Stratford Babe, posted her, more critical, thoughts about the season, at
I replied on her blog. Basically she feels the Kennedy Center should present more Shakespeare, or at least the visiting Royal Shakespeare Company should. I think we are (finally) well-stocked for Shakespeare in this town, and we even boast strong Shakespeare productions, so I'm eager to see something else from the Kennedy Center. Say, affordable tickets?

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Infantry Monologues Being Blogged

The Meat & Potatoes Theatre production, "Infantry Monologues," is being blogged over at
Thanks to Lisa B., a producer there, for bringing this to my attention. I know neither the theater nor the show. Click on "About Monologues" on the top right of the site to read the playwright's description of the work, which he wrote while serving in the infantry from 2000-2004 (pre 9-11, during, and after). It sounds very intriguing.
So far, they have cast the show. The drama begins now.
I love the idea of peeking behind the scenes, although this might be difficult and sensitive. (Imagine someone standing behind you and commenting on your work.) I do hope that different members of the cast and crew contribute to the blog. Presumably, regardless of the number of people in the cast, it takes an army to make a show like this.


"Take Me Out" at the Studio

I went to the Saturday matinee of "Take Me Out," a strong play by Richard Greenberg, a playwright I admire from one of his previous works, "Three Days of Rain." The show, for those living abroad or for hockey fans, is about a baseball player, well played by M.D. Walton, who comes out of the closet.

The Studio's production is excellent, so captivating that after a while I didn't care that I was watching naked men shower--seated near MY PARENTS AND THEIR FRIENDS, a group that has been attending shows together for decades. (They switched their subscriptions en masse from Arena Stage to the Studio Theater several years ago.) We are still adjusting to the new renovations at the Studio, which seem to make the theater a part of 14th Street, rather than a P Street institution. We like the renovations, but change is difficult. We eventually all found each other, still remarking on the new entrance. Did I mention this was a theater group that likes its traditions?

I know many people have not yet seen the show, so I won't give much away. Anyway, they say that successful theater is not so much about what happens on stage, but what happens to the audience, and we have not talked this animatedly for a while. (It's been a long Russian winter at the Studio). I learned, for the first time, that my parents' group consists of several rabid Red Sox fans (is there any other type of Red Sox fan?), a longsuffering Chicago Cubs fan, several budding Washington Nationals fans, and my Dad and his friend Marty, who are Giants fans (that's New York Giants, kids). The Baltimore Orioles fans could not be with us, alas. (Many of us are related to Yankee fans.) Everyone in the group enjoyed the show --a rare consensus-- except for the Red Sox fans, who LOVED it, and said it was the best thing the Studio had put on in ages (it's been a long Russian winter...) and wanted a character's moving speech about the Meaning of Baseball put on a CD and placed in all our nation's schools. Red Sox fans are a little emotional of late.

One of my favorite parts of Saturday's show--again without ruining the play for others--was when a loveable character, the player's accountant, magnificently and memorably played by Rick Foucheux, addressed the audience. Sometimes breaking down the fourth wall annoys me if I'm caught up in the play--the soliloquy rarely advances the plot or the characters--but these addresses worked well in this play. Someone's cell phone rang in the audience, and Mr. Foucheux stopped, and said, "I'll just wait." The person had trouble silencing the phone. "Do you need help?" Mr. Foucheux asked. We all laughed. It was wonderful that such an annoyance could be integrated into the dialogue, allowing us to join the character on stage, if only for a moment.

The discussion afterwards was not as uninhibited as usual--there are sensitive themes raised in the play. So I was grateful when the actors took the initiative, particularly Jeorge Bennett Watson, whose powerful performance as the best friend of the main character, striving to live a straight and narrow life, made him the real star of the show in my book. He was the only one who spoke of the role of the media in the play. The two ball players were frequently interviewed together, and he mentioned the difficulties that the revelation that your best friend was gay might create. There were other themes, such as the divides between North and South, and educated and uneducated, that we did not explore, though the play dwells on them as much as the black/white, gay/straight divisions. The Latino characters also didn't have much to do except speak Spanish--there's another play about Latino players waiting to be written. The Japanese character, played by Ikuma Isaac, was so believable, in his isolation and fierce determination to succeed as a stranger in a strange land. The play is about loneliness as much as anything else, a bit like "Three Days of Rain."

The acting was superb throughout. I did appreciate the actors coming out to talk with us afterwards, especially since they have to do the show again in a few hours. Jake Suffian was terrifyingly real as the bigoted pitcher brought in to help the team, yet such a gentleman during the discusson! Basically I wanted to see more of everyone, and wanted the play to last longer. There is no greater tribute to everyone invovlved in this production.

I walked home and encountered the Capital Pride parade, a celebration of gay/lesbian/transgendered DC. It was a perfect ending to a perfect afternoon.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Humorous Commercialization of Theater

Some might not find humor in the commercialization of theater, but you either laugh or you cry. The advertising industry is definitely trying to get the attention of theatergoers, by for example, inserting product placements in "Sweet Charity" on Broadway, which required altering the dialogue.
A Los Angeles newspaper (I think the L.A. Times) ran the following suggestions for similar commercial opportunities in Shakespeare classics:

1. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark! So come to Jamaica! --Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 4)

2. To sleep, perchance to dream --in just 20 minutes, with Ambien. --Hamlet (3, 1)

3. A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! Or the 325-horsepower Grand Cherokee, now at your Jeep Dealer. --King Richard III (5, 4)

4. But soft! What light through yonder Andersen window breaks? --Romeo and Juliet (2, 2)

5. Beware the ides of March...Madness! Only on ESPN. --Julius Caesar (1, 2)

6. The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. Then it's Miller time! -Henry VI, Part 2 (4,2)

7. If music be the food of love, play on. And while you're at it, Play SuperLotto Plus! --Twelfth Night (1, 1)

8. Lord, what fools these mortals be! Tonight, on "Hannity & Colmes."--A Midsummer Night's Dream (3, 2)

9. To be, or not to be, that is the question. For everything else, there's Mastercard." --Hamlet (3, 1)
No, I don't know where these came from originally. They were written by Bruce Kluger and David Slavin, who write satire for National Public Radio.


Keeping the Conversation Going

On June 5, 2005, the Shakespeare Theatre's Artistic Director, Michael Kahn, met with a small audience at the offices of the Human Rights Campaign, and held a wonderful discussion on theater in Washington, D.C. Not only was Mr. Kahn enthralling, but the audience members asked courteous questions that have been perplexing me since I moved back to Washington, my home town, after over a decade in New York:

1) Can the Washington area, which now boasts over 200 performance troupes, support so many theaters? (Yes, said Mr. Kahn confidently).

2) Aren't Washington audiences rather stodgy, turning out only for Shakespeare, Gilbert & Sullivan, trusted American classics by Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, and Tennessee Williams, fun musicals to which you'd happily take a 10-year old, and anything imported from London and Dublin? No, said Mr. Kahn, Washington audiences are far more adventurous. (I was startled but pleased by this answer, since I consider myself a stodgy theater-goer who can be dragged, kicking and screaming, to Woolly Mammoth---and afterwards feel grateful for having gone---but otherwise only look forward to Shakespeare, G&S, trusted American classics, musicals that I enjoyed as a ten-year old, etc.) . Thank goodness I am not typical, and have friends who will drag me to Woolly and elsewhere.

3) Mr. Kahn seemed unworried about the commercialization of theater, such as the naming of a theater in New York after American Airlines. He said for the right amount of money, and with assurances that the company would have no artistic say over content, he'd happily dub the Shakespeare Theatre, "The Federal Express Shakespeare Theatre." (Which would be one way to avoid confusion with the Washington Shakespeare Company in Virginia. Think about it, Federal Express.)

I left feeling optimistic and energized, even as the weather tried to dampen my spirits through humidity that rivaled the innermost circles of hell. (What did Washington theaters do before air conditioning?)

This blog is an attempt to keep the conversation going. It is founded with the kind encouragement of the wonderful folks at Footlights,, and the incomparable Joel Markowitz and the Ushers, at As soon as I can figure out how to add your links to the "links" section, I will of course link to you, and to Potomac Stages, and to Right now I am still finding my way towards the curtain.

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