Connect with us

Actor/writer Michael Raver is talkative. And sincere. His big eyes peep around swoops of thick brown hair. A three-time O’Neill semifinalist for his plays Fire On Babylon, Riptide, and Quiet Electricity, he’s also a journalist on his off time. Having written for publications like Playbill and The Huffington Post, he’s the style writer for Hamptons Monthly and if you look closely, you can tell. He wears a wooden watch and an aromatic cologne. Brown leather saddle shoes with ripped jeans and a Takuya Duncan blazer.

“Writing about fashion fell in my lap,” he says. “I’ve really come to enjoy it, but I don’t think there’s a more unlikely fashionista than me.”

His resume is expansive. Plays. Articles. A book is in the works. But at the moment, his focus is on theater. He’s gearing up for a New York reading of his elegant new play, Evening, on September 24th.

A period piece, it’s set in 1800’s London, concerning an up and coming member of The House of Commons campaigning for major reform of corruption in the English government. Addressing themes of party division, family, sexuality, and women’s rights, the reading will feature performances from Michael Potts (The Iceman Cometh, “True Detective”), Jack Wetherall (RTC’s Skintight, “Queer as Folk”), Dale Soules (“Orange Is The New Black”), and will be directed by Eric Tucker (Bedlam’s Peter Pan, Pearl’s Vanity Fair).

IMG_4664
Photo by Mike Chiodo. www.mikiodo.com

What inspired you to write Evening?

I’d written a ten-page version of it in 2015 singularly for the purpose of submitting it to Red Bull’s new play festival. It made the finals two years in a row, but never got any further. Then last year, another play I’d written was a breath away from production and the whole thing fell through. It was heartbreaking and try as I might to keep the thing afloat, I watched it slip through my fingers. So I decided I was done writing plays. I couldn’t take the rejection, to be frank about it. It takes so much to get someone, lit managers or artistic directors or anyone at theaters to actually read a play. Being an actor is emotionally expensive enough, you know? Then too, I’d written the first draft of a novel last year and knew I was in for a long haul of more toil and frustration, so I walked away from playwriting. Then another of my plays got nominated for something and with all of the crazy shit that’s been going on in our government in the last few years, I had both the motivation and the determination to get back at it.

Evening is set against the backdrop of England’s Reform Act of 1832. Why’d you choose that?

I wrote something else that took place around that time and had done some reading about the political environment in England in the 1800’s. So I knew a little bit about that movement. I love the Victorian era and this play takes place right before that. It was such a charged time. There’s so much repression in the culture but everyone’s feelings sort of ooze out. Repression is very hard for human beings to maintain, but it makes for juicy drama. These characters are all navigating some kind of restraint. They’re corseted. No pun. (Laughs)

Seems like we’re still faced with a lot of the same roadblocks today.

No kidding! It’s bonkers. As far as the literal politics go, The Reform Act of 1832 encompassed a lot of complicated topics, including women’s issues, race discrimination, and extreme division of party lines. Sounds familiar, right?

There’s a gay component, which adds another layer of complexity to the plot.

I’ve often thought that women and gay men have coexisted in parallel lines. I’m speaking in generalities and obviously there’s room for debate. The absurd things that are foisted upon women in Western Civilization have a lot in common with the challenges that gay men have faced. It’s all about how you have to look and behave a certain way and not question what heterosexual men say or do. There’s a list of things that women and gay men can’t be, at the risk of being branded by the culture around them. Assertive or opinionated women get labeled as bitches. Vulnerable men are deemed weak. With living in accordance to that disempowered alpha-masculine regime, it doesn’t surprise me at all that so many women and gay men form such strong bonds.

dbelusic
Photo by David Belusic.

Do you find it hard to act in something you also wrote? Or is it easier?

Depends. If the director and I are on the same page about what we’re trying to accomplish by telling the story and there’s trust on their part that I can handle wearing both hats, it can be easier. Sometimes it’s not. When I first started learning how to write, I took Faulkner’s “kill your darlings” idea super duper seriously, so I’m not precious about any one thing in what I’ve written.

So you don’t care if someone cuts something?

It’s not that I don’t care. As long as the line or scene in question is truthful and is working to accomplish the goal of the play, then it stays. If it’s confusing or causing unnecessary detours or simply doesn’t work, then it gets cut. And I don’t miss it. The solitary part of the writing process is for me and no one else. It’s the supreme self-indulgence that art demands. But the second that I drop the script in someone’s inbox or share it in any way, it’s no longer singularly mine. Theater’s not an island art form, so getting unnecessarily territorial can lead to a major ass ache for everybody. For me, the content and the process of writing are sacred but not precious. I hold on, but not too tightly. I feel like I can see things clearer that way. Ultimately, I want what’s best for the play and if that means my ego has to sit on the bench while things get worked out, then that’s what happens.

Your cast and director for this reading are impressive. How’d you come by them?

I just asked. I knew Eric socially for a number of years. We discussed casting at length and threw around a ton of names. Then we asked and thankfully these people said yes. There were three closed readings of Evening ramping up to this, in which the cast changed every time. I’ve done that in the past with other plays, asking different people to come in and read so that I can hear a wide range of voices. A really smart actor can solve playwriting problems with their performance, sometimes without even realizing it, so hearing the play read by different people can give me a better picture of what I have.

Do you write every day?

Usually. Sometimes that can look like jotting stuff in my notebook, sometimes it can look like a seven-hour stretch in front of my computer. It varies. If I have an article due or a revision promised somewhere, it’s another story altogether. I try not to beat myself up if I don’t get any writing done any given day. I’m happy to trust myself to get things done. It sounds really boring and unsexy, but for artists, I think time management and discipline are as essential as creativity.

The reading of Evening will be presented at TheatreLab NYC on September 24th at 7pm. Admission is free. To reserve a seat, email eveningplayreservations@gmail.com. Seating is limited.

2270
Photo by David Belusic.For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway

Backstage with Richie Ridge Presents

Published

on

Drama Desk and OCC member Richie Ridge, of Broadway World’s Backstage with Richie Ridge, will moderate a discussion with Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James, both Drama Desk nominees for Lead Performance in a Musical for Days of Wine and Roses, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29 at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Robin Williams Center (247 West 54th St., opposite Studio 54). Drama Desk members are invited. The doors will open at 1:30 p.m., and attendance is first come, first served. Latecomers may not be admitted.

Based on the 1964 movie about a couple falling in love in 1950s New York and struggling to maintain a family in the face of alcohol addiction, Days of Wine and Roses, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel and a book by Craig Lucas, opened at Studio 54 on Jan. 28, 2024. O’Hara and d’Arcy James are both Tony nominees as well.

SAG-AFTRA Foundation and BroadwayWorld have partnered for a filmed Conversations Q&A series to recognize and celebrate the vibrant theater community in New York City and the actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen.

If you would like to attend, please fill out the form here. Be sure to select the Non-member option.

Continue Reading

Off Broadway

Winesday The Wine Tasting Musical Opening Night

Published

on

Winesday: The Wine Tasting Musical, written by Jenne Wason (book and lyrics) and Joseph Benoit (music) and directed by Jamibeth Margolis with musical direction by Alec Bart, celebrated their opening night.

Shannen Hofheimer

Dawn Cantwell

Amanda Lea LaVergne

Debra Thais Evans

Michael Valvo

Jennifer Diamond

When these five wine-loving women get together every Wednesday night, they’re theoretically meeting for a book club or a yoga class, but really, they just want to indulge in wine and talk about their lives. It’s like Sex and the City meets the vineyard – including a friendly wine steward to guide the audience through the wine paired with each upcoming scene. Get ready for an intoxicating blend of friendship, wit, and wine that will leave your spirits lifted and your palate inspired.

Peter Breger

Christopher Devlin (Props Designer) and Grace Curley

Kimberly O’Loughlin (Sound Design)

Rob Diamond and Jennifer Diamond

Jamibeth Margolis (Director/Casting Director)

Jenne Wason (Book & Lyrics) and Jamibeth Margolis

Jenne Wason (Book & Lyrics)

Joseoh Benoit (Music) and Jenne Wason

Joseoh Benoit (Music)

The Band-Britton Matthews, Rick Snell and Alec Bart

Daniel Stanton

Michael Valvo, Daniel Stanton

Kathryn Eader (Lighting Designer) and Jenne Wason

Daniel Stanton and Merete Muenter (Associate Director/Movement Coordinator)

Performances will run through July 2024 at The Jerry Orbach Theater at The Theater Center (210 West 50 Street).

Continue Reading

Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Ashley Griffin and Danny Gardner

Published

on

We are so pleased to announce our guests this week are Director/ performer Ashley Griffin and Broadway’s Danny Gardner Join us Wednesday May 22nd at 5pm.

Ashley Griffin

Ashley Griffin is a Broadway writer/performer most well known as the first person in history to be nominated for a major award (New York Innovative Theater Award) for both playing and directing Hamlet (for a theatrical production.) As a writer Ashley’s work has been produced/developed at New World Stages, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons and more. Ashley received the WellLife Network Award and a county commendation for her Off-Broadway play Trial (directed by Lori Petty and heralded as “If this show were on Broadway it would win the Pulitzer” – Stagescore) which is currently in talks for a transfer. She has written extensively for film and T.V. and is the author of two bestselling novels, Blank Paige and The Spindle. As a performer, Ashley has appeared extensively on and Off-Broadway as well as in T.V. and film. Highlights include work at The Gershwin Theater, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizons, MTC and The Public Theater, as well as on The Greatest Showman and “Homeland.” She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has trained at RADA, the National Theater and the Boston Conservatory. www.ashleygriffinofficial.com

Danny Gardner

Danny Gardner starred io Broadway Flying Over Sunset, A Christmas Carol and Dames At Sea. City Center Encores!: Dick Trevor in Lady, Be Good! (Subsequent Album). Radio City Music Hall: Dad / George M. Cohan in The NY Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. His national tours include Here to Stay – The Gershwin Experience!, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and 42nd Street. Off-Broadway: Cheek To Cheek (The York Theater), Time Step (New Victory Theater), Room 17B and Everybody Gets Cake(59E59th Street Theaters). His regional theatre experience includes; Dial M For Murder (Geva Theater Center & Dallas Theatre Center), Bach At Leipzig (People’s Light and Theatre Company), Crazy For You (Signature Theatre), Singin’ in the Rain (Chicago’s Marriott Lincolnshire), Mary Poppins (Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (John W. Engeman Theater). @dannyjgnyc, www.danny-gardner.com

These two are staring in a limited three-week engagement of The Opposite of Love presented by NewYorkRep May 28 through June 15 at Royal Family Performing Arts Space (145 W. 46th Street, NYC). The Opposite of Love is an intimate story about a down on his luck hustler and a trust fund baby who form an unlikely bond when she hires him to help overcome her sexual trauma. Can this unexpected connection transcend their darker inclinations in a world where love is a commodity? Directed by Rachel Klein (The Gospel According to Heather). Opening night is Thursday May 30 at 7PM. Tickets are now on sale at EventBrite.com.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here, fourteenth here and fifteenth here.

Continue Reading

Out of Town

The Wrong Bashir Fits Right at Crow’s Theatre Toronto

Published

on

By

All this play needs is a few doors to go in and out of, or slam, for The Wrong Bashir, the new play at the Crow’s Theatre, to become a full-fledged farce. It’s hilariously and wickedly fast-paced and original, flying forth on speedy laugh-out-loud wings, and as directed by Paolo Santalucia (Soulpepper’s The Seagull) and written with wit and intelligence by Zahida Rahemtulla (The Frontliners), The Wrong Bashir gets it perfectly and lovingly right.

Sugith Varughese, Nimet Kanji, and Sharjil Rasool in Crow’s The Wrong Bashir. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

With a cast of sure-footed professionals leading the charge, The Wrong Bashir whips its way through a farcical family drama of high comedic proportions that quickly starts rolling forward in urgency when Bashir Ladha, the wildly unfocused son played well and true by Sharjil Rasool (FX’s” What We Do in the Shadows“), is chosen by their immigrant community to a distinguished religious position that does not fit him like a glove. That is clear. His parents; Sultan Ladha and Najma Ladha, deliciously played in all the right tones by Sugith Varughese (Soulpepper’s Animal Farm) and Nimet Kanji (Northern Light’s Contractions), are completely over the moon in excitement, early accepting the role before they even inform their wandering bohemian Bashir. Bashir’s sister, Nafisa, played wonderfully by the engaging Bren Eastcott (Tarragon’s Orestes) is privy to the celebratory news, knowing both that this is of the greatest importance to her parents and (soon-to-be informed) extended family, and also a role so unimportant and ill-fitting to her lost philosophizing brother. It is etched within her role that we can see and understand all sides to this wrong choice, and she becomes the simple subtle connective tissue that holds the framework together, all the while sitting on the sidelines helping out on both sides of the aisle.

Sugith Varughese, Nimet Kanji, Sharjil Rasool, Zaittun Esmail, Bren Eastcott, Vijay Mehta, and Parm Soor in Crow’s The Wrong Bashir. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Selected by a pair of pseudo-elders; Al-Nashir Manji, portrayed solidly by Vijay Mehta (Repercussion’s Macbeth), and Mansour, hilariously over-played by Parm Soor (Walt Disney’s “Prom Pact“), the two mosque committee members quickly arrive at the door to share the news, followed soon after by the sari-wearing grandmother and cognitively-challenged grandfather; played by Zaittun Esmail and Salim Rahemtulla (Western Gold’s 90 Days); and their meddling sly family friend, Gulzar, ingeniously portrayed by Pamela Sinha (Soulpepper’s Happy Place). It’s a madcap recipe for family tension and complications as it becomes increasingly obvious that there has been a mistake. But the jubilant energy in the main room is something that the two mosque committee members, bumbling and ridiculously loveable, can’t bring themselves to destroy.

Running interference between generations and ideals, the play manically runs full speed ahead, almost getting away from us before a few surprising twists pull us back into the spotlight of what is actually important. The ultra-realistic set, beautifully created by set and lighting designer Ken Mackenzie (Shaw’s Sherlock Holmes…), with strong costuming by Ming Wong (Soulpepper’s The Guide to Being Fabulous) and a clear sound design by Jacob Lin 林鴻恩 (Tarragon’s Withrow Park), lends itself well to the manic energy being thrown out into the audience bringing full-on laughs with increasing regularity, even though a few more walls and doors could have been utilized to really give the idea of farcical conversations happening out of earshot to the others. But this is a small slight situation in a play that gets it over the top right. Rahemtulla’s writing gives you family, compassion, love, and so many laughs that you’ll walk out smiling at the insanity of it all, while also feeling the love that family brings to one another. Even when pushed too hard one way or another.

Salim Rahemtulla and Sharjil Rasool in Crow’s The Wrong Bashir. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

There’s cleverness in the care that lives in this community, with family values and ties to one another floating down the stream from generation to generation, and even when rocks get in the way of this flow, the love and honor bubble in and around. There is so many moments of people running about, escaping to the kitchen, over-spiced, smoky beverages served, side glances, eye-rolling, and faulty attempts to leave, that we struggle to stay up, yet the play never boils over into complete, disrupted, disconnecting chaos. It is clear early on that Bashir is not their man; to us, to them, and to himself, but there is another level of immigrant understanding, particularly between father and son, that also floats lovingly through the piece. It prompts questions around purpose and personal dreams, fulfilled or not, and in those more humane moments, we can only see what is most right about The Wrong Bashir, and more importantly, whether Bashir may fit the role better than even he can imagine.

Sharjil Rasool and Bren Eastcott in Crow’s The Wrong Bashir. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

For more information and tickets, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Continue Reading

Out of Town

Comedy On in Noises Off

Published

on

Opening their 2024 Season at the Bucks County Playhouse is Noises Off, a farce by the English playwright, Michael Frayn. Definition of “farce” – a comedic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including ludicrously improbable situations. Yes, yes and yes. Synonym: slapstick comedy.
To be in this production, directed by Hunter Foster, you must either be an olympic gymnast or have the stamina of a race horse for there is much hopping up and down stairs, pratfalling, back flipping, slow splits and general rolling about.

Ah, but I digress. Let us get to the plot. The what? Well, actually there really isn’t much of a plot. You see, the play is a play within a play. It is a troupe of second rate actors in a second rate tour of a second rate play, a sex farce entitled, “Nothing On”. It begins at midnight the night before the cast’s first performance and they are ill prepared. Many things go awry. Missing props, missing cues, missing lines, etc. etc. etc. And to top it all off, there are relationship problems amidst the members which become exacerbated as the tour progresses. Act One is the rehearsal. Act Two is a performance viewed from behind the scenes and Act Three is the disastrous results at the end of the tour.

The play premiered in London in 1982 directed by Michael Blakemore. The 1983 Broadway production again directed by Blakemore earned four Tony nominations and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play and Outstanding Ensemble. Since then it has had seven revivals between Broadway and the West End and has become a staple of both professional and community theaters alike. Standout performances are in order for the entire ensemble.

Amanda Kristin Nichols

Amanda Kristin Nichols (as Brooke Ashton) is hysterical in her skimpy underwear preening and posing in the most ridiculous positions, thinking she’s looking sexy.

Jen Cody

Jen Cody is appropriately dotty as the sympathetic Dotty Otley, whether she’s doing a split or hanging upside down.

John Bolton

John Bolton is simply super as Frederick Fellowes, the sensitive actor who always needs to know “why” he must complete an action on stage no matter how nonsensical it is.

John Patrick Hayden

John Patrick Hayden is marvelous as the director we sympathize with for having to deal with these screwball actors even though he turns out to be a cad. Though Roe Hartrampf is hard pressed to express himself with words as Garry Lejeune, he goes ballistic when he mistakenly thinks that Dotty is seeing Frederick.

Marilu Henner

Marilu Henner is the proverbial peacemaker always trying to smooth things over even when they are inextricably fouled up. Barrett Riggins as Tim Allgood, the Assistant Stage Manager, has greatness thrust upon him through no fault of his own.

Folami Williams

Folami Williams as Poppy Norton-Taylor, the Stage Manager is adorable as she reveals her secret at the end of the play.

Richard Kline

And Richard Kline as Selsdon Mowbray, the man with a drinking habit is quite lovable. They say the director’s hand should be invisible in a play, but I’m afraid that Mr. Hunter’s hands are all over this one for this production is choreographed to a “T”. Credit must be given to this director because usually there aren’t many laughs in Act One as it’s all just a set up for Act Two and Three. However, there are a lot of laughs in the first act. And needless to say, it’s a non-stop laugh fest for the next two acts. So if you need a good laugh – and who doesn’t with fire, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes all around us – this show is a very good panacea.

For tickets visit buckscountyplayhouse.org or call 215-862-2121.

Noises Off by Michael Frayn Directed by Hunter Foster
Running now through June 10, 2024 70 South Main Street

New Hope, PA 18938

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2023 Times Square Chronicles

Times Square Chronicles