If you’re setting sail on the perilous journey of adapting a long historical drama for the stage, particularly one that tries to deal with the glorious (or not) story of America’s early days, you should be very familiar with two examples from the genre that define a spectrum of possible outcomes.
On one end, HAMILTON, the international juggernaut that breathes life into history by using forms and multi ethnic bodies of the present. On the other, RED, WHITE AND BLAINE, the show staged inside of the film WAITING FOR GUFFMAN that has become a defining reference for amateur community theatre and (more subtly) oblivious historical white washing of what life on the merry frontier was like.
When real world events move fast and furious, it can be hard to get new plays out there that address what’s happening. It takes a while to write a play. And many theatres plan their seasons years in advance.
He can act, he can write. And he has won big awards for both disciplines. For all we know, the man can also sing and dance and is readying his musical debut. Any way you look at it, Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Tracy Letts is a force on the American stage and screen.
And he’s got another new play comin’ at you. Soon.
Running March 30 – May 21, 2017, Letts’s Linda Vista hits the boards at Steppenwolf.
Looking for a destination theatre trip to put some spring in your step? This promises to be one worth traveling for.
There are compelling dramatic threads and several strong performances here. But the central scaffolding does not always hold up. Perhaps too much direct address to audience, and not enough interaction between the characters. One thing that’s prescient though: One day Powell’s will go under. You heard it here first. Poof.
Taylor Mac’s disruptive and often gripping play is 3/4 of the way to being something great. But problems of physical pacing, plot and setting hold it back. Laundry lists of acronyms serve as unintentional parody of our own self-obsessed present. Mother’s bright demeanor does not ring true. Still quite an achievement.
Taylor Mac is having a mainstream moment. The New York artist’s new play HIR opened last night at Playwrights Horizons to an industrial strength NYT rave. I’m seeing the show Sunday. Glad I got tickets a while back before the sell out whoosh kicked in.
A phenomenal all star local cast (plus @keikogreen down from #SEAthtr) generates more heat than the at times meandering script (and under air conditioned space) can handle. But there is plenty of promise in evidence. We need to hear more from Copeland – and see a lot more of Tiffany Groben.
When SWEAT, the new play by Lynn Nottage getting its world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is gone, Reading (pronounced “red-ing”), Pennsylvania will still be there.
And then what?
Nottage has spent several years visiting Reading gathering material for her play. But she did not want that to be the end of a heightened focus on de-industrializing American towns.
To continue the dialog and also give something back to the town, Nottage has created The Reading Project (again pronounced “red-ing as in the town), a collaboration between Market Road Films, which is run by Nottage and Tony Gerber, and New York’s Labyrinth Theatre Company.
So far you can see a few videos on Market Road Films’ Vimeo that feature some of the voices Nottage heard on her trips to Reading.
But there’s more coming up. And you know with Nottage and Labyrinth involved, you’re going to want to see what they come up with. So watch this space.
Y’all ready to sweat a little, Ashland, Oregon? I hope so. Because it’s going to be hotter than hell in the Rogue Valley on Wednesday. And I’m not talking about the weather.
That’s right. Even though the forecast is calling for 104, there’s going to be something even hotter than that going on beneath the glare of the mid day fire ball on the Bricks in downtown Ashland tomorrow. And that’s the first preview of the world premiere of SWEAT by Lynn Nottage in the Angus Bowmer Theatre at 1:30 PM.
Despite the temperature, just writing that last sentence there sends a cold sweat down my back. Hoo boy. If I could rub Aladdin’s lamp and be granted one wish to be anywhere on earth in any theatre there is seeing any show imaginable tomorrow – I’d be right here in Ashland. No question.
If you’re a theatre fan, and especially if you’re an Oregon theatre fan, there is simply nowhere else to be on Wednesday. Or Friday and Saturday for the next two previews. Or Sunday for the official opening. Or anytime during the next three months as SWEAT runs in rep at OSF.
A new play by one of America’s leading playwrights at one of America’s (and the world’s) great theatres – which just happens to be right here in Oregon? Hello?? That’s like a Ducks game in Autzen Stadium or Sleater-Kinney at the Crystal Ballroom or the Pendleton Roundup on Saturday night (including a bonus visit to the Let’Er Buck Room). It’s BIG stuff. The biggest. In the American theatre today, it doesn’t get much more exciting than a new play by Lynn Nottage.
Especially this play. In this place. At this time.
The latest from OSF’s flagship American Revolutions commissioning program, SWEAT is coming in hotter than a blast furnace at Bethlehem Steel. Written by Nottage and directed by Kate Whoriskey, the show features a galaxy of OSF talent. Here, feast those heat-dazed eyes of yours on this lineup:
Cast for SWEAT
Tracey >> Terri McMahon
Jason >> Stephen Michael Spencer
Cynthia >> Kimberly Scott
Chris >> Tramell Tillman
Brucie >> Kevin Kenerly
Evan >> Tyrone Wilson
Stan >> Jack Willis
Jessie >> K. T. Vogt
Oscar >> Carlo Albán
Whaaaaaaaaaat?? Yeah – see? You with me? If I didn’t have your attention before, surely I do now.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty happy to just sit in the audience and see that group walk out on stage and stand there and do nothing. But they’re going to do a lot more than that. It sounds like their task is nothing less than acting out a new story of and for our time.
If the past is prologue, look for this show to sell out once the news hits the wire. Remember what happened to ALL THE WAY and THE GREAT SOCIETY? While there will be other chances to see SWEAT at other theatres later on – no production is ever going to be better than this original one on the home field.
It’s only on for three months as it is. Only a few thousand people can see it.
And you definitely want to be one of them.
So buckle down, Ashland. And get ready. Maybe bring a fan or an ice cube or something.
Because the drama is coming. And it’s going to be hot stuff indeed.