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Girl From the North Country

The Public Theatre seems to be the hot new place for theatre in the 2018/2019 season. The West End hit Girl From the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson and featuring music from Dylan’s songbook, may have us “Forever Young.”

Glen CLose

Glenn Close

Jane Anderson’s Mother of the Maid makes its New York premiere starring Glenn Close as the mother of Joan of Arc.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal photo by Rose Billings

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Nick Payne’s A Life, “a meditation on how we say goodbye to those we love most.” Tom Sturridge will perform Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall, a monologue “about love and the human need to know the unknowable.” This will be a double bill beginning in January, which should make the winter seem down right hot!. The show is title Sea Wall/A Life, and will be directed by Carrie Cracknell.

THE PUBLIC THEATER’S 2018-19 SEASON

North American Premiere
GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
Written and Directed by Conor McPherson
Music and Lyrics by Bob Dylan
September 11 – November 4, 2018

Following a critically acclaimed, sold-out run at London’s Old Vic and a West End transfer, the astonishing new show from Olivier Award winner and Tony Award nominee Conor McPherson and music icon Bob Dylan will make its North American premiere at The Public with an American cast. Dylan’s inimitable songbook is authentically transformed into this achingly beautiful story of a down-on-its-luck community on the brink of change in Dylan’s hometown, Duluth, Minnesota, in 1934.

New York Premiere
MOTHER OF THE MAID
Written by Jane Anderson
Directed by Matthew Penn
Featuring Glenn Close
September 25 – November 18, 2018

Six-time Academy Award nominee and three-time Tony and Emmy Award winner Glenn Close returns to The Public in a breathtaking new play by Emmy winner Jane Anderson. MOTHER OF THE MAID tells the story of Joan of Arc’s mother (Glenn Close), a sensible, hard-working, God-fearing peasant woman whose faith is upended as she deals with the baffling journey of her odd and extraordinary daughter. Emmy nominee Matthew Penn directs this deeply moving drama about the glories and challenges of raising an exceptional child.

World Premiere
EVE’S SONG
Written by Patricia Ione Lloyd
Directed by Jo Bonney
October 23 – December 2, 2018
Developed in residence as the Tow Playwright-in-Residence at The Public Theater

From The Public’s Emerging Writers Group alum and 2017-18 Tow Playwright-in-Residence Patricia Ione Lloyd and Obie Award-winning director Jo Bonney comes a stunning, genre-bending new drama about the haunting of a black family in America. In the aftermath of a messy divorce and a daughter coming out as queer, Deborah is trying to keep things normal at home. But as black people continue to be killed beyond their four walls, the outside finds its way in, blurring the lines between family dynamics, politics, and the spirit world.

New York Premiere
WILD GOOSE DREAMS
Written by Hansol Jung
Directed by Leigh Silverman
October 30 – December 9, 2018
A co-production with La Jolla Playhouse

After its initial run in The Public’s Public Studio, Hansol Jung’s fascinating and unforgettable new play WILD GOOSE DREAMS returns in a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse, where it had a critically acclaimed run last season. Minsung is a “goose father,” a South Korean man whose wife and daughter have moved to America for a better life. Deeply lonely, he escapes onto the internet and meets Nanhee, a young defector forced to leave her family behind in North Korea. Tony Award nominee Leigh Silverman directs this strikingly original play with music about two people, from two cultures, forced to choose between family and freedom.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jenny Koons
Sit-down run at The Public Theater: October 29 – November 18, 2018
Following a three-week tour in the five boroughs

This fall, a classic New York City block party becomes the enchanted setting where fairies work their mischief in Shakespeare’s beloved play A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Acclaimed director Jenny Koons takes you to the royal wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, where a celebratory play is being rehearsed.

UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL
15th Edition
January 3-13, 2019
Full UTR line-up to be announced in the fall.

FRANKENSTEIN
By Manual Cinema

Two hundred years ago, 18-year-old Mary Shelley conceived a ghost story about birth, creation, and abandonment that would become the world’s first science-fiction masterpiece. Internationally renowned multimedia company Manual Cinema stitches together the classic story of Frankenstein with Mary Shelley’s biography to create a full-length, unexpected story about the beauty and horror of creation.

New York Premiere
SEA WALL / A LIFE
Written by Simon Stephens and Nick Payne, respectively
Directed by Carrie Cracknell
Featuring Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively
January 26 – March 24, 2019

Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Tony Award nominee Tom Sturridge make their Public Theater debuts in an unforgettable and incredibly intimate evening of theater. Sturridge, in his third collaboration with Tony and Olivier Award winner Simon Stephens, performs SEA WALL, an astonishing monologue about love and the human need to know the unknowable. Gyllenhaal continues his artistic collaboration with Olivier Award-nominated playwright Nick Payne in A LIFE, a meditation on how we say goodbye to those we love most. Directed by Carrie Cracknell, this heart-filled exploration of the beauty of life and the meaning of love, SEA WALL / A LIFE is an evening of dramatic storytelling at its best.

World Premiere
WHITE NOISE
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks
Directed by Oskar Eustis
February 19 – March 31, 2019

Following her critically acclaimed trilogy Father Comes Home From The Wars, Parts 1, 2, & 3, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and The Public’s Master Writer Chair Suzan-Lori Parks returns with a world premiere play about race, friendship, and our rapidly unraveling social contract. Long-time friends and lovers Leo, Misha, Ralph, and Dawn are educated, progressive, cosmopolitan, and woke. But when a racially motivated incident with the cops leaves Leo shaken, he decides extreme measures must be taken for self-preservation. The Public’s Artistic Director Oskar Eustis directs this fierce new drama about what happens when the unspoken and the unspeakable come head-to-head.

World Premiere
AIN’T NO MO’
Written by Jordan E. Cooper
Directed by Stevie Walker-Webb
March 12 – April 21, 2019

AIN’T NO MO’, first seen in The Public’s Public Studio, is a vibrant satirical odyssey portraying the great exodus of black Americans out of a country plagued with injustice. In a kaleidoscope of scenes of the moments before, during, and after this outrageous departure, Jordan E. Cooper’s masterful new work explores the value of black lives in a country hurtling away from the promise of a black president. Stevie Walker-Webb directs this wildly imaginative and emotionally charged play.

World Premiere
SOCRATES
Written by Tim Blake Nelson
Directed by Doug Hughes
April 2 – May 19, 2019
In collaboration with the Onassis Cultural Center NY, with support of Onassis Foundation USA

SOCRATES is a witty and endlessly fascinating new drama about a complicated man who changed how the world thought. This powerful new play by actor, director, and writer Tim Blake Nelson is an intellectual thrill ride from the philosopher’s growing prominence in democratic Athens through the military and social upheavals that led to one of the most infamous executions in Western history. Tony Award winner Doug Hughes directs SOCRATES, a timely and timeless new work that serves as a passionate tribute to the man who continues to inspire us to question authority and defend freedom of belief.

THE TEMPEST
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lucas Caleb Rooney
Sit-down run at The Public Theater: April 29 – May 19, 2019
Following a three-week tour in the five boroughs

Magic and mayhem continue their wicked work in THE TEMPEST, directed by Obie Award winner Lucas Caleb Rooney. When a storm shipwrecks King Alonso and his royal entourage on the island home of Prospero and his daughter Miranda, secrets and suspicions lead to drunken distrust and murderous plots. But love plays games with revenge, and the stuff of nightmares becomes the stuff of dreams in this magical comedy about the human heart, lost at sea.

New York Premiere
MOJADA
Written by Luis Alfaro
Directed by Chay Yew
July 2 – August 11, 2019

MacArthur Genius Award-winning playwright Luis Alfaro returns with the New York premiere of his stirring drama about love, immigration, and sacrifice, inspired by the Ancient Greek story of Medea. Helmed by Chay Yew, this play masterfully combines ancient storytelling with the most pressing issues facing our country today, following a young Mexican mother who gives up everything to bring her son to America, only to find America demands even more.

FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK

The Public presents OTHELLO (May 29-June 24), directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson; and TWELFTH NIGHT (July 17-August 19), a reimagining of the 2016 Public Works production, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub and directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Off Broadway

Gun & Powder is a Powerful Piece of Musical Theatre

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Over at Paper Mill Playhouse there is a new powerhouse musical that opened last night. Gun & Powder is the true story of Mary and Martha Clarke, African American twin sisters who, pass as white to settle their mother’s sharecropper debt. In the meantime they learn to love who they are, celebrate their history and bloodline.

The direction of this show by Stevie Walker-Webb features a superb cast, a compelling story, and possibly one of the best new scores to come along in awhile, sung to perfection.

Liisi LaFontaine Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Set in 1893 Texas the show is centered on the book writer and the lyricists Angelica Chéri great- great aunts Mary and Martha Clarke (the incomparable Ciara Rene and Liisi LaFontaine who sing and act these roles flawlessly). Born into slavery, their mother Tallulah Clarke (Jeannette Bayardelle) had the girls with a Caucasian man so they are light skinned. When they are penalized for not reaching their quota of cotton, they will lose everything unless they come up with $400. Mary and Martha decide to leave posing for white. Martha is given a gun by her mother and when she finds the power that gun affords her, the two ended up robbing to get ahead. They ended up in a saloon owned by Jesse (Hunter Parrish) and Mary falls in love and ends up marrying him, but that is when the real action begins.

Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams Photo by Jeremy Daniel

There are also the two housemaids of the Salon, Flo and Sissy (Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams) who almost steal the show with their attitude and killer vocals in “Dirty Shame”. Also standing out are Aaron James McKenzie as Elijah a black servant who falls in love with Martha and sings “Invisible”. His duet with LaFontaine “Under a Different Sun” is in a word, gorgeous. The fabulous Katie Thompson, plays Fannie Porter a white saloon singer who sings “Frenchman Father” and makes you really listen.

Katie Thompson Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The star of this show is Chéri’s lyrics and composer Ross Baum’s music. From Jazz, to Gospel, to Spirituals to blues, to Broadway, this score soars. It is like going to musical theatre church. From the “Prologue”, to “Wide Open Plains” until “All of Me,” this score captures you heart, mind and soul. The orchestrations by John Clancy, just enhance the whole experience.

Hunter Parrish Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s choreography keeps the show in a profound transformation.

The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt is simple yet effective. The lighting design by Adam Honor really makes the set come to life and the costume design by Emilio Sosa keeps us in the period.

Gun & Powder and Chéri and Baum are a show and a team of writers to keep your eye on. I predict big things for both.

This musical is fresh and exciting and if it doesn’t make it to Broadway next year I would be surprised.

Make sure you get your tickets. You will not be disappointed.

Gun & Powder: Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Dr, Millburn, NJ until May 5th.

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Broadway

Lempicka Brings An Artist Work Back To Life

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In 1984, I saw the interactive show Tamara based on the life of the artist Tamara de Lempicka in LA and fell in love with it, so much so that it has stayed one of my favorites to this day. Lempicka is a new musical based more on her sexual choices than her stylized Art Deco portraits that changed and inspired generations. She was one of the first feminists, as Tamara choose art, sexual freedom and a lifestyle in a time of war and destruction.


The musical starts out on a park bench in LA as an older Tamara (Eden Espinosa) reflects on her life. Flash back to Warsaw, Poland as Tamara is to be wed to Lempicka (Andrew Samonsky) an aristocrat and is to live a life of luxury. Then the Bolshevik’s in prison her husband, she uses sexual favors to free him and they flee to Paris with their daughter. When her husband is unwilling to work she becomes a painter and uses the name Lempicka. There she is befriended by a wealthy art patron (Nathaniel Stampley) and his wife (Beth Leavel), is influenced by Marinetti (George Abu), the founder of the Futurist art movement, and is inspired and in love with Rafaela (Amber Iman). Both Lempicka and the musical come alive at this point. Tamara finds friendship and solace with a nightclub owner, Suzy (Natalie Joy Johnson), who gives her and others like her a refuge, until the Nazi’s invade. In the end, while breaking ground Lempicka’s life style becomes rather self centered or should I say one of self preservation as she loses her husband, her daughter and her lover.

Amber Iman, Eden Espinosa Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

Matt Gould’s music and Carson Kreitzer’s lyrics are well sung and the show sounds glorious. This is a new take on pop music. The problem here is the minor characters get the songs that make the show come alive. Iman, Abu and Johnson almost steal the show with their numbers. Level gets the 11 O’Clock number and breaks our hearts. Though Espinoza has some good numbers and sells them, none of them really stand out.

George Abud photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman)

Kreitzer also conceived the book and wrote it with Gould. Again the show does and doesn’t work. Instead of focusing on Lempicka’s art, the changing world around her and the fact that she was one of the first feminists, the story is more focused on lesbian repression. The show is billed as a triangle of love, but her husband once they get to Paris is in his own world until she gets together with Rafaela a prostitute. Rachel Chavkin’s direction makes the scenes between Rafaela and Lempicka beautiful and in a strange sense if feels a little like Indecent, however the show as a whole doesn’t jell.

Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

I did like Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography that seemed to evoke the changing world around.

Riccardo Hernández’s set of steel, seems like the world is on the verge of collapse and rebuilding. The lighting by Bradley King and projections by Peter Hylenski and Justin Stasi added to that effect. Paloma Young’s costumes missed the mark and seemed like they were in two different stories.

The reason to see Lempicka is it is sung and acted gloriously.

Once you see Lempicka, you will realize how much Tamara de Lempicka’s art change and influenced the world of art. This was a woman who survived at all costs and that should always be admired.

Lempicka: Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street.
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Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: The Outsiders

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These boys are taking Broadway by storm Jason Schmidt, Sky Lakota-Lynch, and Brody Grant. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1967, the hardened hearts and aching souls of Ponyboy Curtis, Johnny Cade and their chosen family of “outsiders” are in a fight for survival and a quest for purpose in a world that may never accept them. A story of the bonds that brothers share and the hopes we all hold on to, this gripping new musical reinvigorates the timeless tale of “haves and have nots”, of protecting what’s yours and fighting for what could be.

The Outsiders opened on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.

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Broadway

We Say Good Bye To Costume Designer Extraordinaire Carrie Robbins

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I met Carrie Robbins at an art gallery with Louis St Louis, Baayork Lee and Judy Jacksina. The four of us stayed well into the morning talking, laughing and having a fabulous time. Carrie and I bonded after that as she turned to playwriting. It broke my heart to learn that on the evening of April 12, 2024 Costume Designer extraordinaire Carrie Robbins passed away.

Carrie’s work has been featured in over 30+ Broadway shows, including Class Act, Grease (original), Agnes of God, Yentl, Octette Bridge Club, Sweet Bird of Youth (Lauren Bacall), Frankenstein, Happy End (Mary Streep), Boys of Winter, Cyrano (Frank Langella), & Shadow Box (Mercedes Ruehl).

Her awards and nominations included: 2012 recipient of the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Theatre Development Fund & the tdf/Costume Collection with the support of the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund. 2 Tony (Noms.), 5 Drama Desks, Maharam, USITT/Prague International, L.A. Dramalogue, Henry Hughes, F.I.T-Surface Design, & Audelco, among others.

Robbins’ costumes for the Irving Berlin musical White Christmas played major cities in the USA, Broadway, and Great Britain. Her regional work included M. Butterfly and On the Verge, for director Tazewell Thompson (Arena Stage) and the Gershwin musical American in Paris by Ken Ludwig for director Gregory Boyd (Alley Theatre, Houston) as well as The Tempest (Anthony Hopkins as Prospero) & Flea in Her Ear (director Tom Moore at Mark Taper Forum), many productions for the Guthrie (MN), Williamstown, and many others from Alaska to Buffalo.


Locally, in NYC, Robbins designed for many productions for The Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, Chelsea Theatre at BAM, Acting Company at Juilliard and NY Shakespeare Festival.

She also designed for the Opera and they included Death in Venice for Glimmerglass (’08 Prague International Design Exhibit), Samson et Dalila (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand, more), and many productions for Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston. Her work has also been seen at the Hamburg StatsOper.

For film Robbins designed the movie “In The Spirit” (Elaine May, Peter Falk, Marlo Thomas); TV design included: Saturday Nite Live, PBS Arts in America, & several unseen pilots.

Robbins has designed clothes for several seasons of Queen Esther Marrow and The Harlem Gospel Singers’ European Tour. She also did the designs for The Cincinnati Ballet’s new Nutcracker, in December of 2011

Robbins was an MFA grad from the Yale School of Drama and was Master Teacher of Costume Design at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts for many years. She is extremely proud of the extraordinary number of award-winning, successful young costume designers and costume teachers across the country who came out of her classes.

Besides being a costume designer Carrie also was a playwright. In August 2010, her play, The Death & Life of Dr. Cutter, a Vaudeville, based on the true stories told by her husband Dr. R.D.Robbins, had its 4th reading at the Snapple Theatre Center; it was chosen by Abingdon Theatre Co, NYC, to be part of its First Readings Series in Fall, 2009. In 2011-12 the  League of Professional Theatre Women chose The Dragon Quartet as part of its 30th year anniversary celebration. In 2012-13, La MaMa (oldest off-off-Broadway theater in NYC at 51 years) chose The Diamond Eater for its “Concert Reading Series”. In 2013: TACT (The Actors Company Theatre, chose Sawbones for part of its newTACTics New Play Festival. In 2014 both The Diamond Eater and Sawbones  received 6 Nominations from N.Y. Innovative Theatre Awards (the most nominations given out in the 2014 season). In 2015, Le Wedding Dress, was a semi-finalist in NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016: Obsessions Of An Art Student chosen by NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016, The Actress, was a finalist in NY Thespis Summer Festival. In 2017, My Swollen Feet, chosen by NY Summerfest Theatre Festival/ Hudson Guild Theatre. In 2018 The Diamond Eater , semi-finalist at the 14th St. Y competition War + Peace/2018/19 season and The Dragon Griswynd, was chosen by Theater for the New City for its “Dream-Up Festival” In 2019 Pie Lessons, was invited by Crystal Field, Exec. Artistic Director of Theater for the New City, to be part of “Scratch Night at TNC”.

The last thing Carrie was working on was For The Lost Children Of Paris. This play was about how the Nazis, with help from the Vichy Government, collected French-Jewish schoolchildren and delivered them to Auschwitz. Excellent German record-keeping revealed 11,400 children were taken. At the liberation, only 200 were found alive. This is the story of one classroom’s collection day and its aftermath.

She did this play using puppets as the children.

Carrie had a voice that she used in a multiple of ways. She was a caring friend, a dedicated teacher, a prolific writer and costume designer, who always cared about others first. Carrie you will be missed.

 





 

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Broadway

Patti LuPone Returns to Broadway and The Big Screen

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Three-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, who gave up her Equity card in 2022, will star opposite Mia Farrow in Jen Silverman’s new play, The Roommate. The production will be directed by Jack O’Brien and will begin previews at the Booth Theatre in August ahead of a September opening.

The Roommate tells the story of Sharon, in her mid-fifties, who is recently divorced and needs a roommate to share her Iowa home. Robyn, also in her mid-fifties, needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets, they encourage her own deep-seated desire to transform her life completely. A dark comedy about what it takes to re-route your life – and what happens when the wheels come off.

The Roommate premiered at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in March 2015, and has had several regional productions including at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2017.

Ms. LuPone will star in the upcoming Marvel series, WandaVision spinoff series Agatha: Coven of Chaos. She’s in a coven of witches, playing Lilia Calderu, who is hot, with a great body and hair. Calderu, first appeared in Marvel comics in 1973 as a 450-year-old Sicilian witch whose power is divination and whose trial is tarot. The other witches are Kathryn Hahn, Aubrey Plaza, and a familiar who is played by Joe Locke. Locke, is currently on Broadway in Sweeney Todd.

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