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The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

Dane Laffrey is an American designer based in New York City. He studied at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art and resided in Sydney from 2002 – 2006.

On Broadway he designed the set for the current hit revival of Lynn Ahren’s and Stephen Flaherty’s Once On This Island (Circle in the Square), set and costumes for the acclaimed Deaf West revival of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s Spring Awakening (Brooks Atkinson) and set for the Broadway premiere of Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love (Friedman).

The Maids

The Maids

His work won him a 2017 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Set and Costume design and he has been nominated for a Drama Desk Award, 5 American Theatre Wing Henry Hewes Design Awards, an Ovation Award (LA) and a Sydney Theatre Award as well as numerous regional accolades.

T2C: How did you become involved in set and costume design?

Dane Laffrey: It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I started in community theatre in high school, but it was when I went to a boarding school called Interlochen Arts Academy that I began to specialize in set and costume design. It felt like the best contribution I could make to theatre, which I already knew I loved.

T2C: You worked a lot off Broadway, off-off Broadway and regionally. How did you get your first break to work on Broadway?

Fool For Love

Fool For Love

Dane Laffrey: My first show on Broadway was supposed to be Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love. That year [2015] I had also been working on Deaf West’s Spring Awakening in LA– the Broadway transfer of that production actually became my Broadway debut. Ironically (and hilariously) they were at The Friedman and The Brooks Atkinson, respectively, which are across 47th street from each other. The shows were in technical rehearsals on a very similar schedule, and that proximity allowed me to effectively be in two places at once which was incredibly helpful.

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening

T2C: How did you come up with the idea for your design for Once This Island?

Dane Laffrey: Though not explicitly mentioned in the text, Once On This Island is set in Haiti. Our process began by researching that place and its people, with a particular focus on the harrowing effect of the earthquake in 2011 and Hurricane Matthew several years later. We felt it was hugely important to do our best to honestly and responsibly portray the world that our research, and an eventual trip to Haiti last spring, led us to understand. It’s a world that has a dangerous relationship with the natural elements, populated by incredibly vibrant and resilient communities who survive. A world still working to heal the racial and social divides of a colonial past. A world whose history is steeped in Vodou practice, from which the four Gods who drive the story of Once On This Island are derived. The story of the show and the specific realities of contemporary Haiti feel inexorably bound to one another; our reimaging of the show and the design are all about presenting the story in a truthful and recognizable context.

Once On This Island

Once On This Island

T2C: This is an ecological masterpiece. Where did you find all your elements?

Dane Laffrey: The set is comprised of many salvaged elements. Most everything is a custom build on some level, but comprised of numerous found pieces carefully incorporated into my existing design. This meant a lot of patience and care on the part of the teams of fabricators in two countries to respond to the found objects and integrate them piece-by-piece, or modify them to fulfill the numerous unusual needs of a musical. We have the back of a jackknifed tractor-trailer onstage, for example. It is (mostly) a real truck, but the shop who salvaged it had to make it much stronger so it could support the weight of the band on top, and completely disassemble it in modular components so it could be transported into Circle in the Square, down a freight elevator. The exterior and interior were painted based on a design from my research, but we were careful to not cover the corrosion and rust that came with the object. Real objects introduced into a theatrical environment bring their past lives with them in a powerful way, and I’m thankful to the incredible team of builders and artisans who helped me bring literally hundreds into the design.

Once On This Island

Once On This Island

T2C: What is your favorite surprise hidden in the set?

Dane Laffrey: When we finally saw the space empty last year, we found an odd architectural feature that wasn’t on any of the blueprints: a long, horizontal slot running most of the width of the back wall. Inside it, I installed a long altar, full of icons, Vodou paraphernalia and offerings to the Gods of our island. Most of the audience can see it as a graphic element in the wall, but those up close in the onstage seating bank (which incidentally is another entirely custom aspect of the design) get a totally different perspective with lots of cool detail.

T2C: What was the most difficult element?

Dane Laffrey: I think the thing we wrestled with the most (from a design standpoint) was how to deal with the idea that, at the end of the show, our heroine Timoun is transformed into a tree. There’s obviously no literal way to do that, but we wanted to be sure we provided some visual catharsis to underscore what this transformation represents: transcendence, renewal, rebirth. From the early stages of the design process, I loved the idea of a downed power pole that had fallen into the audience, held up on crushed theatre seats. The gesture felt bold, but more importantly represented a tangible connection between space and design; a violent collision between Circle in the Square and the world of the island. Our visit to a Vodou temple in Haiti greatly influenced our conversations about the finale. All Vodou temples have a vibrantly decorated central totem, called a poto mitan, which represents a connection between the mortal world and the realm of the Gods. In Vodou practice outside a temple, a tree is often used to represent the same connection. At the end of the show, our downed power pole is resurrected and reveals itself to be this kind of totem. Ours is decorated with photos of our company’s loved and lost. It not only represents Timoun’s transition between worlds, but also the connection between our company of actors and the characters they play.

T2C: Of all your work, what has been your favorite and why?

Dane Laffrey: In general, I’m really bad at picking favorites. But, at this moment I do have to say Once On This Island. It really was a labor of love. I spent two years designing the show and was with the installation of the set every single day it was in the theatre, adding and refining the details of the space until the moment we stopped work on the show. I feel deeply connected to the space. Object by object, piece by piece, week by week it became a 360º environment. I love making work like that.

I Remember Mama

I Remember Mama

T2C: I absolutely loved your work on I Remember Mama. How did you come up with that concept?

Dane Laffrey: Jack [Cummings III] is a director I work with a lot. I’ve always liked making challenging spaces for him. Jack’s cast for I Remember Mama was comprised entirely of women over the age of 70. It was profound to experience the play through this lens, and that approach certainly pushed us very far from the idea of anything that was spatially literal or representational. The design we arrived at was 10 heirloom dining room tables and 60 chairs flooding the gym at Judson Church, with audience on four sides. The tables were covered in heirlooms on display, many belonging to the company members. It was a memorial or remembrance space. It shares a lot of DNA with the spirit of the tree in Once On This Island, now that I think of it.

T2C: You also design costumes; where does your passion lie?

Dane Laffrey: In storytelling. I just happen to do both. I like being a narrative storyteller through the design work I do, in whatever discipline.

T2C: Where would you like to design a show, or what show would you like to design that you haven’t had a chance to do?

Dane Laffrey: I would LOVE to work in the Park Avenue Armory. I’m obsessed with that space and many of my favorite shows in recent years have been in it. I love spaces with some kind of extraordinary dimension, be it height, width, depth–the Armory has all of those in spades!

T2C: What is your advice for young designers?

Dane Laffrey: You need to know what you’re doing as an artist, or at least what you hope to do. You need to have a voice and a point of view that’s singular and strong. You need to have a commitment to innovation. You need to know why making work that is fresh and new is a very important. Think carefully about how you approach your education–follow a path that forces you to grow even when that makes you uncomfortable.

T2C: What would you like us to know about you?

Dane Laffrey: I am excellent cook.

T2C: What’s next on the plate for you?

Dane Laffrey: Summer and Smoke at CSC, Peace for Mary Francis at The New Group, Dave, the new musical at Arena Stage, Annie at the Hollywood Bowl. Then Dangerous House at Williamstown and Collective Rage: A Play In 5 Betties at MCC, both written by my partner Jen Silverman.

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

Broadway

Drama Desk Awards Backstage In The Press Room

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T2C was backstage at the Drama Desk Awards last night. Here is a look at the action.

First in the room:

Kara Young

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange

Sarah Paulson

The Cast of Stereophonic-Will Brill, Sarah Pidgeon, Juliana Canfield, Andrew R. Butler, Tom Pecinka, Chris Stack and Eli Gelb

Nikiya Mathis

JR Goodman, Ray Wetmore and Camille Labarre

Nikki M. James

Patrick Page

Enver Chakartash

Paul Tazewell

Cole Escola

How to Dance in Ohio cast members that includes-Liz Weber, Jeremy Wein, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Nicole D’Angelo and Becky Leifman

Paul Tate dePoo

Avran Mlotek, Motl Didner, Dominick Balletta and Zalem Miotek

Jane Cox

Brian MacDevitt

Brian MacDevitt and Jane Cox

Isabella Byrd

Ryan Rumery

Walter Trarbach, Cody Spencer and Kai Harada

David Yazbek

Itamar Moses

Lady Irene Gandy

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick

Matthew Broderick

Nathan Lane

Will Butler

Marco Paguia

Shaina Taub

Justin Peck

Daniel Aukin

Jessica Stone

Corbin Bleu and Sarah Hyland

Andre Bishop and James Lapine

Keisha Lewis

Maleah Joi Moon, Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara

Maleah Joi Moon

Keisha Lewis and Maleah Joi Moon

Kelli O’Hara

Brian d’Arcy James

Peter Nigrini

Carole Rothman and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Amy Herzog

David Adjmi

Adam Greenfield, David Adjmi

Sarah Hyland and Debra Messing

 

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Broadway

The 2024 Winner’s Of The Drama Desk Awards The Red Carpet

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The 2024 Annual Drama Desk Awards were announced last night at NYU Skirball Center. Tony Award Winners Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit hosted the ceremony.

Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit

Aaron Tveit

Sutton Foster

T2C was on the red carpet.

Andrew Durand

Jeff Kuperman and Rick Kuperman

William Jackson Harper

Shaina Taub

Peter Nigrini

Kecia Lewis

Celia Keenan-Bolger

Jocelyn Bioh

Laura Benanti

Jesse Robb and Shana Carroll

Jessica Lange

Camille Labarre, Ray Wetmore and JR Goodman

Michael Starobin, Andrea Grody and Shaina Taub

Will Brill

Sarah Paulson

Richard Ridge

Sarah Hyland

Maleah Joi Moon

Patrick Paige

Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields, Maleah Joi Moon

Brian D’Arcy James

Will Keen

Michael Stuhlbarg, Will Keen

Mary Louise Burke

Isabella Byrd

Justin Peck

Kara Young

Marco Paguia

Miss New York Rachelle diStasio

Josh Breckenridge

Lorin Latarro

Ricky Ubeda

Glauco Araujo

Dorian Harewood and Nancy Harewood

Mark Williams

Brody Grant

The Cast of Stereophonic-Andrew R. Butler, Will Brill, Tom Pecinka, Juliana Canfield, Eli Gelb, Chris Stack and Sarah Pidgeon

Paige Davis and Patrick Page

James Monroe Iglehart

Sarah Pidgeon

Nikiya Mathis

Montego Glover

Cole Escola

Tom Pecinka

Chris Stack

Leslie Kritzer

Miriam Silverman

Andrew R. Butler

Pat Swinney Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment with Juliana Canfield

Juliana Canfield

Enver Chakartash

Robert Pickens and Katie Geil

Will Butler

David Adjmi

Daisy Prince

Debra Messing

Lena Hall

Debra Messing

Nikki M. James

Michael Stuhlbarg

Paul Tazewell

Camille A. Brown

Marin Ireland

How To Dance in Ohio-Liz Weber, Jeremy Wein, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Nicole D’Angelo and Becky Leifman

Jacob Karr

Dylis Croman and Robert Montano

Eli Gelb

Walter Trarbach

Steven Valentine

Peter Charney and Brendan George

Rebecca Frecknall

Lady Irene Gandy

Timo Andres

 

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Broadway

Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth

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The Broadway League’s Black to Broadway initiative announces the performers for this year’s Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth concert taking place in Times Square on Wednesday, June 19th from 11:00am – 12:30pm (rain or shine).

Michael James Scott

Michael James Scott will host. Flagstar Bank will be this year’s presenting sponsor.

Phylicia Rashad

The 2024 Juneteenth Legacy Award will be presented to two-time Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, a versatile performer, director, educator, and humanitarian who has delighted generations of audiences through her work in beloved roles both in theatre and on screen. As an actress, Ms. Rashad has won two Tony Awards, for A Raisin in the Sun (2004 Best Actress in a Play) and Skeleton Crew (2022 Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play). She was also a 2005 Best Actress in a Play nominee for Gem of the Ocean. As a producer, Ms. Rashad recently received a Best Revival of a Play nomination for Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.

The fourth annual Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth concert features more than 35 performers from the following 17 Broadway shows: Aladdin; & Juliet; Back to the Future: The Musical; Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club; Chicago; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; The Heart of Rock and Roll; Hell’s Kitchen; Illinoise; The Lion King; MJ; Moulin Rouge! The Musical;The Notebook; Suffs; Water for Elephants; The Who’s Tommy; The Wiz; and the return of the kids of Young Gifted and Broadway. All performances will be accompanied by live music thanks to The Music Performance Trust Fund and the Film Funds. American Sign Language interpretation will be provided.

The exciting line-up of Broadway stars set to perform includes: Blu Allen, Donovan Louis Bazemore, Jace Bentley, Ronnie S. Bowman Jr., Maya Boyd, Tsilala Brock, Max Chambers, Taylor Colleton, Jay Copeland, Lorna Courtney, Charity Angél Dawson, Mariama Diop, Desmond Sean Ellington, Will Ervin Jr., Jerome Hermann-Hardeman, Dorian Harewood, Jackson Hayes, Najah Hetsberger, Afra Hines, Manny Houston, Jaylen Lyndon Hunter, Bre Jackson, Polanco Jones Jr., John-Michael Lyles, Mehret Marsh, Deja McNair, Alex Newell, Veronica Otim, Cristina Rae, Jelani Remy, William Rhem Jr., Albert Rhodes Jr., Walter Russell III, Antoine L. Smith, Nia Thompson, Lamont Walker II, Rachel Webb, NaTasha Yvette Williams, and Hailee Kaleem Wright.

Joining The Broadway League in partnership for Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth are Black Theatre United (BTU), Black Theatre Coalition (BTC), The New York Times, and the Times Square Alliance. Black Theatre United has curated a selection of Black-owned restaurants to take part in the celebration by selling food and treats to attendees. Kokomo, LaMode BK, and Brooklyn Sweet Spot will be on-site with a selection of delicious options to add to the festivity.

Flagstar Bank is the 2024 presenting sponsor of Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth. Other sponsors include: The Music Performance Trust Fund and Film Funds; the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment; Audience Rewards; Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; Broadway.com; M·A·C Cosmetics; TodayTix; Playbill; The Araca Group; and Open Jar Studios.

The creative and production teams of Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth include Director and Writer Steve H. Broadnax III, Music Director Rashad McPherson, Executive Producers Brian Anthony Moreland and Aaliytha Stevens, Stage Manager Monet Thibou, and General Manager Devon Miller of Foresight Theatrical.

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Broadway

The 2024 Winner’s Of The Drama Desk Awards With Interviews

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Photo Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

The 2024 Drama Desk Awards were a star-studded ceremony at NYU Skirball Center co-hosted by Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit. This is the only major NYC theater awards for which Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway productions are considered in the same categories. Two recipients in each of the gender-free performance categories were announced and in some categories not only were their ties but three winners selected.

The winners are:

Outstanding Play: Stereophonic, by David Adjmi, Playwrights Horizons

Outstanding Musical: Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Revival of a Play: Appropriate, Second Stage Theater

Outstanding Revival of a Musical: I Can Get It for You Wholesale, Classic Stage Company


Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play:
Jessica Lange, Mother Play, Second Stage Theater

and Sarah Paulson, Appropriate, Second Stage Theater

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical: Brian d’Arcy James, Days of Wine and Roses, Atlantic Theater Company, Maleah Joi Moon, Hell’s Kitchen and Kelli O’Hara, Days of Wine and Roses, Atlantic Theater Company


Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play:
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Mother Play, Second Stage Theater and Kara Young, Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical: Kecia Lewis, Hell’s Kitchen and Bebe Neuwirth, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club


Outstanding Direction of a Play:
Daniel Aukin, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons


Outstanding Direction of a Musical:
Jessica Stone, Water for Elephants

Outstanding Choreography: Justin Peck, Illinoise, Park Avenue Armory


Outstanding Music:
Shaina Taub, Suffs

Outstanding Lyrics: David Yazbek and Erik Della Penna, Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Book of a Musical: Itamar Moses, Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Orchestrations: Marco Paguia, Buena Vista Social Club, Atlantic Theater Company


Outstanding Music in a Play:
Will Butler, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons

Outstanding Revue: Amid Falling Walls, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Outstanding Scenic Design of a Play: David Zinn, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons

Outstanding Scenic Design of a Musical: Paul Tate DePoo III, The Great Gatsby (includes projections)


Outstanding Costume Design of a Play:
Enver Chakartash, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons


Outstanding Costume Design of a Musical:
Paul Tazewell, Suffs

Outstanding Lighting Design of a Play: Jane Cox, Appropriate, Second Stage Theater


Outstanding Lighting Design of a Musical:
Brian MacDevitt and Hana S. Kim (projections), The Outsiders

Outstanding Projection and Video Design: Peter Nigrini,Hell’s Kitc

Outstanding Sound Design of a Play: Ryan Rumery, Stereophonic, Playwrights Horizons


Outstanding Sound Design of a Musical:
Nick Lidster for Autograph, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, Cody Spencer, The Outsiders and Walter Trarbach, Water for Elephants


Outstanding Wig and Hair:
Nikiya Mathis, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, Manhattan Theatre Club


Outstanding Solo Performance:
Patrick Page, All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain

Unique Theatrical Experience: Grenfell: in the words of survivors, St. Ann’s Warehouse, National Theatre, and KPPL Productions

Outstanding Fight Choreography: Cha Ramos, Water for Elephants

Outstanding Adaptation: An Enemy of the People, by Amy Herzog


Outstanding Puppetry:
Ray Wetmore, JR Goodman, and Camille Labarre, Water for Elephants

SPECIAL AWARDS

Ensemble Award

The cast of Stereophonic – Will Brill, Andrew R. Butler, Juliana Canfield, Eli Gelb, Tom Pecinka, Sarah Pidgeon, and Chris Stack – who execute David Adjmi’s hypernaturalistic text with extraordinary care and precision, while also performing Will Butler’s music with the freshness and life that makes us believe we are witnessing, first-hand, the creation of a new American classic.


‘Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award

Cole Escola, who both wrote and stars in one of this season’s biggest hits Off Broadway, Oh, Mary! Following in the long legacy of queer artists who write themselves into American history, Escola’s new “gay fantasia on national themes” is a hilarious reminder of why we must continue to interrogate our past.

ADDITIONAL SPECIAL AWARDS

How to Dance in Ohio Authentic Autistic Representation Team – Sammi Cannold, Nicole D’Angelo, Becky Leifman, Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Liz Weber, and Jeremy Wein  – for their steadfast support of autistic theatermakers, and their strides toward true accessibility for neurodiverse individuals both on and offstage.


Lighting designer Isabella Byrd, whose self-described technique as a “darkness designer” has earned her a cache of nominations and awards in the United States and abroad. During this season, Byrd illuminated two Broadway shows done in the round, An Enemy of the People and Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club. Off Broadway, her spotlight on quiet, small-scale stories both enchanted us in Primary Trust and mesmerized us in Infinite Life, with a parking-lot sky that marked the passage of time.


Lady Irene Gandy, for career achievement. A press agent extraordinaire for over five decades, Lady Irene has always demonstrated her passion, dedication, and love for theater. A Broadway producer and Sardi’s honoree, she is a zealous advocate for inclusion, diversity, and equity in the arts.

 

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Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Bernadette, Angela, Ethel and Patti

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Gypsy turned 65 on May 21, and soon Audra mcDonald will take over the role. Let’s look at the other Mama Rose’s. Ethel Merman originated the character at the Broadway Theatre in 1959, and received a Tony nomination for her performance.

Patti LuPone last Rose, took home the 2008 Tony for her turn.

Angela Lansbury took on Rose in the 1973 London revival of Gypsy, which later transferred to Broadway in 1974. She was the first Rose to win a Tony Award for her performance.

Bernadette Peters took on Rose in the 2003 Broadway revival and received a Tony nomination for her perofrmance. At the 57th annual Tony Awards, she sang “Rose’s Turn.”

Bette Midler played Mama in the 1993 television adaptation of Gypsy and Barbra Streisand played the role on the big screen.

Looking forward to the next incarnation.

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