Working with Carolyn German on the Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Department's New Play Reading Series has been a dramaturg's dream.
I woke up on New Year's Eve 2011 - my birthday - to the realization that I have borne the burden of dramaturgy for 32 years - over 1/2 my life. Over the years, I have acquired a wonderful catalog of scripts and now I have the opportunity to put them out there.
Thanks to Carolyn's vision, two voices from the African American Playwrights Exchange - Hershell Norwood and Mark Clayton Southers - have added these Nashville readings of their work to their resumes, and two Nashville songwriters, Steve Leslie and Len Cohen, just had a chance to share their new musical, UMBRELLA, with a packed house last Monday night (2/13/12).
And Nashville film makers Peter Ness and Raeanne Rubenstein have had an opportunity to screen their works as well.
And on Monday, March 12 the MPTD New Play Reading Series will honor women veterans of the American military with Halee Culicerto's reading of Dr. Jamie Cutler's ANGELS WITHOUT WINGS.
All at Nashville's own Looby Theatre.
On Monday, February 27, Carolyn and her collaborator, composer Rollie Mains, will present a reading of their own new musical THE AIRSHIP AT VAPOR STATION: THE STEAMPUNK MUSICAL at 7 pm at The Looby.
We should all show up for this - even if only to find out what "steampunk" is. So save the date and "Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre."
I asked Carolyn to tell us about herself, her work, her job and her mission, and this is what she has to say:
What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing? My parents were musical theater fans, and my sister and I spent a great deal of time in our living room dancing around the coffee table to Zorba the Greek, and singing the duets from West Side Story. She was older, so of course, I was the one who always had to sing Tony's part. Maybe that's why I have always liked roles that are a stretch.
Tell us about your own evolution as an artist. There is, I think, a huge and elaborate process called evolution. My first love of the performance world was always singing. In my school-age days, I was working towards a country music career. Then, in high school, I got a taste of musical theater, and that took hold in a way I could not have predicted! I worked in theme parks, did lots of dinner theater, cruise ships, and off-Broadway plays, while continually studying acting, jazz, and ballet. Meanwhile, I was still writing, mostly songs and some short plays, although I had not intended on doing anything with that work.
When I decided to move to Nashville, it was for a country music recording contract. Upon arrival, one of first job opportunities was an audition notice for Tennessee Repertory Theater's production of A Chorus Line. Once again, theater got the best of me! I played Val in that production, and continued working with them and other Nashville theater companies and have been ever since. In the late '90s I started my own company, Theater Craft, Inc., and offered classes and produced independent theater. Adding that layer was a huge step for me, and prompted me to take my own writing more seriously. Several years later, I wrote "The Story Builders." My company produced it for TPAC Education and it was seen by over 10,000 people. I took on this job with Metro Parks about 5 years ago, and it has been a wonderful journey. Today, the joy of my craft is knowing how fortunate I am to be able to tap into all the aspects of the theater-world (singing, performing, teaching, writing, directing, producing, and venue management) that have driven me over the years. I count myself very, very, lucky.
What’s going on theatrically with Metro Parks and what does your position as artistic director entail? I wear two hats at Metro Parks – Supervisor of the Music and Theater Departments and Manager of the Z. Alexander Looby Theater. With the Music and Theater Departments, the focus is on opportunities for youth. We have several music classes like jamBand, Songwriting or Guitar. Usually, most of these classes are free. However this semester, the theater classes are with guest instructors, so there is a small fee, but it’s a great way for kids to dive into the world of performing arts.
We also have two wonderful opportunities in the theater department that include full performances - WinterSong at Two Rivers Mansion and our summer musical. The cabaret, Wintersong, is a charming annual event I created several years ago that offers young singers the opportunity to experience in a lovely, historical setting the classy art form known as “cabaret.”
For those new to the genre, that is cabaret spelled with a small “c,” and it is the style of performing that features just the vocalist and pianist in a cozy setting as opposed to Cabaret spelled with a capital “c,” which is a show that is well-known, but certainly not appropriate for children.
Two years ago, I wrote a full-length play about Z. Alexander Looby’s life and triumphs in the Civil Rights Movement – that was a wonderful experience that truly celebrated one of Nashville’s own heroes. With that success as a foundation, we look forward to producing more historical plays that will feature the arts in several of Metro Parks’ historical properties.
Our biggest project is our summer musical that features talented young performers from all over Metro. It’s an audition-based program that encourages those that are new to the stage as well as those who have tread the boards already to grow and explore. This year’s production is "AirShip at Vapor Station: A Steampunk Musical," a brand new musical written by Rolin Mains and me. The play will be a challenge for the performers but fun for the entire family.
What are the objectives of a new play reading series? One of our goals is to continue to find ways to serve the community-- large and a vibrant, if sometimes, underserved theater community as well. I created the New Play Reading Series so that groups or individuals would be able to do two things: work their craft and share it with the community. The reading is a powerful step in the creative process of theater, but it can be a heavy financial burden. Usually what happens is that the reading is presented to only a mallinvited audience in someone’s living room. That type of scenario is not effective for the playwright or for patrons because the playwright might lose valuable theater-goer feedback, while area resident lack awareness of the play. So, we are pairing opportunity with awareness. It’s been a success so far.
What are your hopes for Nashville as a theater town? Well, things have certainly changed since I moved here more than 20 years ago. What I like most right now is seeing the number of new works being created: that means different viewpoints, new energy, new audiences – all the things we need for the city to have a thriving performing arts community. The theater community continues to grow, and even the smaller companies are showing staying power and bringing new folks to the theater all the time. It’s an exciting time to be here. I’m glad I’m part of it.
Carolyn German Metro Nashville Parks Music and Theater Depts, Supervisor Z. Alexander Looby Theater, Manager Celebrate Nashville, Children's Area Chair
To learn more about the Metro Nashville Parks program and to contact Ms. German, please click the post's title.
As excited as I am about the play we will be reading at The Looby Theatre on Rosa Parks Boulevard at 7 pm on Monday, March 12 I am even more excited about the cast.
We are blessed to have a cast that is made up of some of Music City's finest actresses - and a couple of dudes as well. Who are they? Click the image above to find out.
And our director. Who is she? Halee Culicerto comes to us from NYC having studied at AMDA and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
And Save The Date -
Monday, March 12, 7:00 pm The Z. Alexander Looby Theatre, 2301 Rosa Parks Boulevard,
when the Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Department and The African American Playwrights's Exchange present the first reading of Dr. Jamie Cutler's ANGELS WITHOUT WINGS - a tribute to those American women who flew for the American military in WWII and to all Women Veterans.
Lesbians, sociopaths and malignant morality dominate the stage, and femininity is betrayed, in Jon Hallquist's production of THE CHILDREN'S HOUR at Vanderbilt.
Lilian Hellman is my favorite playwright of her generation - Jewish and Southern, from New Orleans, she shoots from the hip and, while she personifies independence, her life long affair with Dashiell Hammet is one of the great love stories of the existential age. THE CHILDREN'S HOUR is a play about women that no man could ever have written, a play about lesbianism that premiered in 1934, when it was actually illegal in New York to deal with the subject of homosexuality in the theatre, Lilian Hellman was an early harbinger of edginess on the American Stage.
The script has some challenges for the contemporary actor. For one thing, even though the language is basically contemporary, it's also bizarrely archaic - it's something about the sentence structure. And it's a "drama" in the pure sense of the word as it was understood in the days of O'Neill, Williams and Miller. It can make you uncomfortable, but it's the kind of discomfort that comes with a scandal and scandal can be very addictive.
My mentor, who was a set designer, taught me this - to have great theatre you need great actors with a great script in the right costumes, and the first thing I want to commend here is the costumes. The identical girls school uniforms are kind of creepy in a Wednesday Adams-esque way and the rest of the characters all looked like they got up and dressed themselves on the morning in question.
The next thing my mentor taught me was that you need physical things onstage that speak to the world of the play. Hallquist's version, set "in the round" involves some lovely furniture pieces which bring a kind of Gothic feel to the evening. There are also old timey radios which are meant to be the source of the unusual soundtrack and, as these radios are spotlighted at the end of scenes, there presence adds to the mystery of the voices that haunt the people in this place. The female vocal version of I CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOU comes off like something you might have heard in a 50s lesbian bar, had there been such a thing.
The first act belongs to Madeline Mooney, who is truly off her meds as Mary Tilford. Mooney finesses every wicked turn in Mary's machinations and manipulations. Carly Schwartz pipes in with equal fervor as Mary's minion Rosalie and the scene where Mary blackmails Rosalie in front of everyone else may well just be one of my favorite theatre moments of all time.
As Martha Dobie, Madeline Fansler has some very Meryl Streep qualities. Her performance is the one that tears your heart out.
In the heterosexual corner of the love triangle, Nicole Williams and Nathan Rose are nicely matched as a pair of lovers caught up in a long term betrothal that just won't seem to culminate in a wedding before it's too late.
Because of her youth and loveliness, it took me a moment to adjust to Charlotte Otremba as the grandmother, but she grew on me. Sarah Corapi as Agatha (Grandmother's housekeeper) is kinda scary.
Beau Bassewitz has a sharp turn as a licentious grocery boy and Laura Winston is over the top as Mrs. Lily Mortar, teacher of elocution.
To the young actresses who flush out the student populations of the girls school, I would say that you make lovely 5th graders.
To learn more about the Vanderbilt University theatre program, please click the post's title.
Submission Categories: • Full-Length Plays • One-Act Plays • New Works Reading Series • Workshops • Doug E. Doug Comedy Competition
The DC Drama Department is proud to announce the 2012 DC Black Theatre Festival, a week-long festival celebrating the thriving theatre community in Washington DC, June 23 – July 1, 2012.
We are looking for works in any genre, including plays which incorporate movement, dance, and music. Playwrights of all skill levels are encouraged to submit. All chosen Full-length Plays, New Works Reading Series and Workshop are supported by the festival with 100% of the ticket sales going directly to the performing group, facilitator and/or playwright. A cash award and trophy are given to the winners of the One-Act plays.
Please submit your application online by clicking the post's title.
Any questions, please contact the DCBTF Staff at info@DCBTF.org
Deadline for all submissions are Tuesday, March 1, 2012
(Hollywood, CA) After Dark Productions with Foxx Media Group proudly presents SUNSET RED directed by Ian Foxx starring Anwar Mitchell, Paris Nicole, Sonja Hubert Harper pka Maia and Charles Campbell with Ursalin Bryan. The world premiere screening will be held at The 20th Anniversary of The Pan African Film And Arts Festival on February 17, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. and again on Saturday, February 18th at 2:30 p.m. at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Rave Cinemas BHCP 15, located at 3650 West Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, California. For tickets please visit the website at www.paff.org or call 310.337.4737.
SUNSET RED is a gripping murder mystery. SUNSET RED is a Wild Ride on the After Dark Side. SUNSET RED is a 25-minute short film noir and will screen in Blu-Ray and High Definition 5.1 Surround Sound. To view the trailer or production shots please click the post's title or to purchase the novel SUNSET RED call 232.216 4772.
Based on Sunset Red the novel, SUNSET RED the fictional narrative short film offers a glimpse into the tormented lives of a family that struggles with abuse, deceit, and self-actualization but this awareness comes with a hefty price. SUNSET RED compels us to look inward and examine our own prejudices, biases and convictions. Also a feature length play, this story offers depth from a variety of angles and perspectives while opening dialogue on topics that polarize church, state and family.
Pan African Film and Arts Festival was founded in 1992 as a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of cultural and racial tolerance and understanding through the exhibition of Film Art and Creative Expression. For additional information visit www.paff.org or call 310.337.4737.
IAN FOXX, filmmaker, photographer with over 40 years experience in the Entertainment Industry directed and Co-produced the Film SUNSET RED. Foxx is the Chief Executive Officer of the Foxx Follies Theater Workshop. He attended Los Angeles City College where he studied film and taught at West L.A. College. He has performed in theater, television, films, and commercials. Foxx has been a Professional photographer over 15 years. Currently CEO of Foxx Media Group LLC and several projects in development. For more info contact: Foxx Follies Studios, 3760 Cahuenga Blvd., Suite 102, Studio City, CA 91604; 818 760 9948; ifoxx@sbcglobal. net.
The theme song SUNSET RED was composed and sung by Maia aka Sonjia Hubert Harper. She arranged SUNSET RED along with Chris Warrior with lyrics by Maia & Charles Campbell. Single-named Maia is a SAG/AFTRA actor with significant credits in television, radio and film. Maia is also a multi-instrumentalist (harp, flute, piccolo and vibraphone) who has gained critical acclaim throughout the USA and abroad. She is a member of the AACM of Chicago and recently appeared at the Ford Amphitheater in LA, CA with the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra.
Just before moving here I had had a musical produced at The Lambs Theatre in NYC - NELLIE, book by Bernice Lee, Music by Jaz Dorsey, Lyrics by Dorsey and Lee.
That was 1999.
I think NELLIE was my 10th musical to receive an NYC production. The first had been in 1988, when The Lewis Carroll Society of North America had invited me to present my musical ALICE IN AMERICA as part of their annual meeting in New York.
Somewhere in between those years I had enjoyed productions of CAFE ESCARGOT, WAITING FOR THE E TRAIN, BABBLHAGGLE AND VAN DER BICH, DON'T ASK/DON'T TELL, and had served as in house composer/lyricist for BIGGS ROSATI PRODUCTIONS on their educational productions EL BARBERO DE SEVILLA, MANANAS DE ABRIL Y MAYO, LE PETIT PRINCE and DER TALISMAN. And Bonnie Comley, who since went on to Broadway producer status, used ALICE IN AMERICA for her graduate thesis in children's film.
I had also served as assistant to the producers on over 75 national tours over a 7 year period.
And another 7 wonderful years as pianist for NYC Cabaret legend TOPAZ.
Then came the tornado and I wasn't in Oz any more, but I was some place equally fascinating - Nashville, Imperial City of the American Songwriter.
It seemed like the ideal place to work on new musicals. And so the new adventure began.
Now I've been in Nashville 12 years and those 12 years have been spent digging for hidden treasure - the new musicals of Nashville.
Keep in mind that we are in the early years not only of a new century but of a new millenium - historians love these "transitional" periods and didn't we have fun crossing over those time borders. So let's make some history. Theatre history.
The new musicals coming out of Nashville really rock.
Not that they're "rock musicals" - or "country musicals" either. Randi Michael Blocks GUESS WHO'S COMING TO SEDER is a witty urban expose in show tunes. Marcus Hummon writes operas. Ted Swindley's BECOMING KINKY works around Kinky Friedman's greatest hits just as his renowned ALWAYS.....PATSY CLINE worked around Patsy's.
Sue Fabisch's MOTHERHOOD THE MUSICAL is on a roll; Mike Mcfaden is about to launch CITY OF LIGHT following up on his wonderful AIN'T WE GOT FUN which went from The Darkhorse to NYC a few years back, via a few great readings at the now defunct CHUTE. And we're about to get another look at Jesse Goldberg;s RUFF LIFE. It's about dogs.
This past Monday's reading of UMBRELLA by Steve Leslie and Len Cohen drew about 150 people to the Looby Theatre on Rosa Parks Boulevard (right across from Watkins film school) on a cold rainy Monday night in February and there were plenty of folks from Music Row in the crowd- and the standing ovation was seriously sincere - as much for the cast and their wonderful singing as for the wonderful songs and story.
The thing is, there's plenty of talent to cover the musical theatre bases in Music City USA - with Marjorie Halbert and the musical theatre program at Belmont setting the bar as high as it can get. Over at Lipscomb they're training their own crew of triple threats as well.
This spring we can catch the musical theatre talents of TSU with their production of THE FANTASTICKS.
And who knew that Cathy Street could find so many excellent voices for that concert version of CHESS. It was well worth the drive to Elm Hill Pike.
Speaking of which, we don't really have a theatre district in Nashville, but we do have some major theatre destinations, starting with THE DARKHORSE on Charlotte Pike, which if I remember correctly, was founded by a crew that included current owner Shannon Wood and Denice Hicks, Artistic Director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival.
Any theatre tour of Nashville would have to start at The Darkhorse because that's where most of us got our starts in one way or another. It's also home these days to THE SHADES OF BLACK THEATRE FESTIVAL coming up in the fall.
And there is kind of a mini theatre district in the Bongo Java/Belmont area, where Ken Bernstein's Upstairs After Hours @ Bongo Java has served as launching pad for many a Nashville project, including the alarmingly successful and long running DOYLE AND DEBBIE SHOW. Bongo sits across from the pedestrian entrance to Belmont Univesity and Belmont's Massey Hall and beautiful Troutt Theatre with it's fin de siecle mainstage and the nifty blackbox where cool things of all ilks happen. This is where we'll go to see LA CASA DE BERNARDA ALBA.
Back in the day, I made my stage debut with Circle Players at TPAC, which is our "Big House" downtown and home base for Tennessee Rep. If you go to TAPC you want to eat at Demo's. It's a bit of a walk from 3rd and Commerce to 5th and Deaderick, but you can pass through Printer's Alley and have a quick brew and a song at Lonnie's Western Room & Kareoke Honky Tonk. I lived on Printer's Alley for my first 9 months in Nashville - you have to check it out.
We have our own Parthenon here in Nashville in Centennial Park, and that's also where you will find Nashville Shakespeare in the summer and also Carolyn German and The Metro Parks Theatre Department. There's also a really cool little bar-b-que restaurant on the west edge of the park.
The Parthenon is right across from Vanderbilt and the lovely VUT theatre sits right in the middle of things as you enter the campus from 23rd Avenue. They're getting ready to open Lilian Hellman's THE CHILDREN'S HOUR.
The thing is that you do need a map and really reliable GPS to get to the great theatre in "Nashville" be it Chaffin's Barn out in the middle of no where, The Renaissance Center in Dickson or The Boiler Room in Franklin - which by the way is a must for musical theatre, and set in this great kind of neo country urban shopping center called The Factory, because I guess that's what it was at one time.
Or a trip to Murfreesboro for an evening at Out Front on Main or a great University production at MTSU - whose theatre students always seem to be on hand to help out with local productions.
Franklin is also the home to O'More College of Design. I don't know if they do theatre, but I would bet that some name costumers are going to come out of their program. Check 'em out at www.omorecollege.edu
With all this inspiration, I might even write another musical myself.
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a city to make really brilliant theatre scene. Just think of London, Paris, Moscow, New York. Nashville.
Everything about the city of Nashville recommends it as the next chapter in the history of the American theatre.
Long before the entertainment industry got here, Nashville was know as The Athens of the South as the Southern city with the most universities- and it's our university theatre departments that are really fueling this Nashville theatre fever - especially Belmont and Lipscomb, who not only put on awesome shows but also know how to get the audiences in to see them. Instead of treating the theatre departments like "this is where we keep the weird kids," these two fine schools are putting their young actors and designers on the front line where most universities put the football and basketball teams.
Long before country music came to town, Queen Victoria gave "Music City USA" it's moniker after hearing - not Tammy Wynette but The Fisk Jubilee Singers. Today Nashville has possibly more African American Theatre companies than any other city in the country. Queen of the heap would be Sista Style Productions, so google that when you have a moment.
Speaking of Sistas, while there are a few interesting men in the Nashville theatre scene, I have to say that it's the women that are really kicking butt. I have found that dealing with women is so much easier than dealing with men - I think it has something to do with testosterone, so here, in no particular order, is my list of awesome Nashville theatre women.
Shannon Wood, Carolyn German, Denice Hicks, Helen "Olaketi" Shute- ettaway, Maryanna Clarke, Marjorie Halbert, Beki Baker, Cathy Street, Martha Wilkinson, Deb Holloway, Mary McCallum, Persephone Felder-Fentress, Wesley Paine, Alexis Lherrison, Susan DuPont, Courtney McClellan, Halee Culicerto, Vali Forrester. I shouldn't stop here but I have to so we can get on to other things.
Of course, I should mention the contribution from the gay community, but I, being extremely "Southern" myself, don't want to make anyone nervous or accidentally "out" anyone (like myself), so let's keep that one in the closet, right? Just remember Bianca Paige in Torch Song Trilogy at The Darkhorse. Sold out a three week run three weeks before it opened at @$25.00 a ticket.
Kinda like CROWNS is doing now!
And how about a hand for our great critics - Martin Brady, Evans O'Donnell, Jeffrey Ellis and Amy Stumpfl.
When Nashville songwriter Steve Leslie walked into his regular Starbucks on Tuesday, February 14, the entire store burst into applause.
And no wonder.
UMBRELLA, the new musical by Leslie and his collaborator, Len Cohen, had had a reading at the Looby Theatre the night before, and Leslie & Cohen had packed the house with friends, fans and supporters who had given UMBRELLA the kind of standing ovation that most playwrights just dream of.
To their credit, the cast of Danny Mitchell, Cassie Peterson, Michelle Glenn, Steve Leslie, Lipscomb Theatre major Luciano Vignola, and Steven Dale Jones had delivered a tight and beautifully sung performance of this haunting memory play about love and love lost.
The reading itself was the third event in the Metro Nashville Parks' Theatre Department's New Play Reading Series - but the first event in the series to showcase a new musical by Nashville songwriters. Because of Leslie & Cohen's deep history with the Nashville music community, the reading attracted quite a few denizens of "Music Row" - giving folks from that arena a good taste of how a musical can serve the songwriters' need to share their talents via a medium that has great commercial potential.
Metro Parks Theatre Department Artistic Director Carolyn German was on hand to greet the crowd and to invite them to return to the Looby on Monday, February 27, for another new play reading of THE AIRSHIP AT VAPOR STATION: THE STEAMPUNK MUSICAL, which German has written in collaboration with Rollie Mains, founder of the Nashville Composers Association.
What is Steampunk? I guess we'll find out on February 27.
The collaborative teams of Leslie & Cohen and German & Mains join the ranks of other Nashville songwriters with musicals of their own, from Bruce Arntson and THE DOYLE & DEBBIE SHOW to Sue Fabisch and MOTHERHOOD: THE MUSICAL to Randi Michaels Block and GUESS WHO'S COMING TO SEDER (which opens in Tulsa, OK. in May 2012).
The African American Playwrights Exchange is back with another provocative evening of theatre and dialogue, when Helen "Olaketi" Shute-Pettaway directs Ken Bernstein and Don Daniels in a confrontation - IT FALLS BETWEEN - by Dr. Frank Dobson, Executive Director of The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt University.
Produced by Sabine Schlunk.
Mr. Bob Teague will provide pre curtain music starting at 6:30. The reading will start at 7:00.
All this happens at gallery f on the Scarritt Bennett campus on the eventing of Friday, February 17.
Call Gallery f at 615-320-4651 for reservations.
For further information call Jaz Dorsey at 615-915-0891
The African American Playwrights Exchange invites you to:
Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre.
To learn more about Scarritt Bennett Center, please click the post's title.
NOW I know what it feels like to be part of a hit show, which is the only way to describe the current production of CROWNS at Christ Church Cathedral.
But I can't get you tickets
That the show sold out before it opened is no surprise - CROWNS has already been the biggest box office hit EVER at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. The fun part - which was very "New York" if you will, was when friends started contacting me with "I can't get tickets - can you get me tickets?"
Which I couldn't.
Even the playwright, Regina Taylor, came to see the show this past Thursday.
The upcoming Encore performance on Feb. 17 also sold out within 36 hours of the tickets going on sale and there is no doubt in my mind that this could go on indefinitely.
Which brings us to THE problem of the American theatre, which is, what do you do if you have a hit?
I can tell you what people in New York do.
They put the tickets onsale and keep the show running for as long as the tickets keep selling.
Sadly that is not an option for those of us who choose to live and work outside of the Big Apple. Out here in the provinces you get your two or three week run and that's about it.
Which is to say that, in fact, the theatre IS a profession in New York and not so much other places like, say, here in Nashville. Your Phd. in theatre from Yale notwithstanding.
But that could change.
Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre!
Jaz Dorsey Dramaturg The African American Playwrights Exchange AAPEX Nashville, Tennessee
The response has been OVERWHELMING - the first four performances sold out and the critics loved it. Tickets are available for the additional performance of CROWNS at Christ Church Cathedral on Friday, February 17, 7:30 p.m. Just click the post's title to buy tickets which are $15 general admission and $5 for students. Don't delay. Previous shows sold out rapidly.