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Tarragon Theatre Unleashes a Powerful and Funny Redbone Coonhound



I fixed all that racism,” he says, just before Redbone Coonhound, the new play co-written by the interracial couple, Amy Lee Lavoie (Rabbit, Rabbit) and Omari Newton (Black Fly), dives down deep into the power and impact of language and words in ways that both astound and destroy, both in the best of all possible manners. The couple at the heart of the piece, Mike, played intensely by Christopher Allen (Canadian Stage’s Sweat) and his wife, Marissa, played strongly by Chala Hunter (Segal’s Travesties), might be seen as stand-ins for the playwrights, as they enter into a tense and uncomfortable conversation ignited by an unintentional interaction one lovely afternoon in the park. Said to be based on an actual real-life collision of sorts, the young couple begins a conversation with an older white couple, played most impressively by Deborah Drakeford (ARC’s Martyr) and Brian Dooley (Theatre Network’s Gordon), over their pointedly friendly dog who seems more interested in Mike than anyone else, much to the displeasure of both. It turns out that this breed of dog goes by the name, Redbone Coonhound, which signals some racist tracking that doesn’t really register too much meaning to white Marissa. But for Mike, these words have a whole history of intense power dynamics while also representing the pain and subjugation of an oppressed race, his, in particular. “It hurts me to explain it,” he states.

The words used to describe the breed, in isolation, have hot racist meanings and set an agitated fire inside Mike that ricochets throughout the whole space they inhabit, throwing sparks of disruption into more arenas than we could imagine. It elicits heated discussion between the two that quickly elevate, but nothing in comparison to what happens later on in this well-crafted play between this interracial couple and their friends; a black couple, played intently and wisely by Kwesi Ameyaw (Pacific’s The Mountaintop) and Lucinda Davis (Centaur’s Doubt), and a white single guy, played pretty brilliantly by Jesse Dwyre (Segal’s Red) who seems to have a difficult time thinking before speaking.

Those two words, Redbone Coonhound, send the play swirling, as well as the play’s solid group of actors, into multiple scenarios and different moments in time, past and future, unpacking layers upon layers of complex constructs that revolve around race, racism, misogyny, sexism, privilege, and hypocrisy, with the actors donning numerous hats and brilliantly exaggerated costumes, designed wonderfully by Nalo Soyini Bruce (Black Theatre Workshop’s Pipeline) that add engagement to the unraveling. And that description only hints at the complicated topics that are hunted down and unleashed. It’s impressive that this writing duo has found their way through this myriad of complexities without getting lost in the overly intense interactions. It stays true, unearthing a hilariously smart and sly play that never gives up its sense of purpose, or its sense of fun.

As wisely and wildly directed with style by Micheline Chevrier (Segal’s Top Girls), we are transported back and forth through time and space, literally, on a simple white projectable stage, designed smartly by Jawon Kang (DWP/Stratford’s Mary Stuart) with wild and wonderfully in tune projections by Frank Donato (Tarragon‘s Orestes). With strong lighting by Michelle Ramsay (Factory’s The Waltz) and a solid sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne (Tarragon‘s Buffoon), it shoots out confrontational engaging moments, and gives us access to a wide range of characters. We are surprised by a modern rap version of an American icon, Harriet Tubman, beautifully embodied by Davis, stepping in to save the day, as well as a put-upon white woman (Drakeford) who goes from being used as a table to declaring, “I vow to live my life like a Black woman would… Except for the hard parts.”

Choo-Choo Motherfuckers!” And with that moment of excitement and clarity, Redbone Coonhound is off and running. It shifts from the present day to the past or the future, navigating life through an intersectional lens and trying hard to make strong points while playing most purposefully with all the different realms of experience. It gives so many thoughtfully strong moments, without ever feeling self-righteous or arrogant. We can’t help but sit in wonder at the quick sharp lines that unleash so much meaning, while also making us laugh at all the wildly successful constructions set forth before us.

The strongest scene, which made many a person squirm in their seats as they laughed loud and true, was when we are ushered into the home of a white couple, once again played by the miraculously good Drakeford and Dooley, who, against a backdrop of bongo drums and African-centric art, are agast and annoyed with their young daughter (Hunter). They howl with displeasure as they sit in their culturally appropriated inappropriate outfits, struggling to understand and accept that she has brought home a white intellectual, played beautifully by Dwyre, and announced that they plan to marry. They can’t take it in, shouting to the heavens ‘no’, as they wonder “why?!?” They feel that they had done everything in their power in order for their daughter to want to marry a black man. And are horrified that she doesn’t understand. They say it’s because they want a ‘real’ athlete in the family, but it’s far deeper and more demented that just that. The scenario is a profoundly intense, amusing, and intelligent assessment of racism and privilege, shaken apart and pulled back together again by some news the young white man receives from an Ancestry test that is cause for celebration. And astonishment.

Mike’s anger resonates throughout but what really takes this play forward is the ideas unleashed, without having to have a nice ending of realization and agreement. It’s filled with conflicting emotions and impossible conflicts seared in deep-rooted pain. Overt and covert racism has not been eliminated, like it almost has been in the 2030 universe out there in space. It lives on, infuriatingly and devastatingly so, tearing hearts and friendships apart from the vulnerability it has exposed. The actors all do magnificent jobs pulling apart and delivering Redbone Coonhound to the end, as they confront and send out into the universe ideas that are confrontational and dynamic, while never losing any opportunity to laugh. It’s a remarkable feat, one that everyone should take in and think about, once you stop with the uncomfortable laughter.

Redbone Coonhound runs at Tarragon Theatre through March 5. Tickets are available here.

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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 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


Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T



Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde

Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.

Rachel Chavkin Photo Credit Erik Tanner

Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.

Martyna Majok by Josiah Bania

Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.

Sonya Tayeh

American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little PillWaitressNatasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at

Thomas Bartlett Photo Credit York Tillyer

Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.

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Reading For Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee New Musical Other World



Other World, a new musical with an original score and story by Tony Award Nominee Hunter Bell (book), Obie Award winner Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics), and singer-songwriter and author Ann McNamee(music and lyrics) will present invite-only staged readings on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 at Open Jar Studios in New York City. With direction by Jenn Rapp (The Illusionists Director/Choreographer) and choreography by Karla Puno Garcia (Tick, Tick … BOOM! film, Kennedy Center Honors), Other World is being developed in creative consultation with the five-time Academy Award winning WĒTĀ Workshop (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies).

Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee

One moment Sri and Lorraine are in a garage on Earth. The next, they’re unexpectedly transported into Sri’s favorite video game, Other World. Now trapped in the game and in a race against the clock, this unlikely pair must work together, discover their inner strengths, and connect with gifted gamers and astonishing avatars in order to survive and find a way home. With art direction provided by Academy Award–winning Wētā Workshop (The Lord of the RingsAvatar), this heartfelt, humorous musical explores the connections we make on- and off-line, while celebrating the families and friendships we need to thrive in any world. Join us for this spectacular, original, otherwordly adventure. Your journey begins…now!

The cast features Micah Beauvais (Sri), Bella Coppola (Lorraine), Ryan Andes (Roman/Antagon), Madeleine Doherty (Myra), Kaden Kearney (Tris), Brandi Porter (Temula), Mikaela Secada (Jamie), with Sojouner Brown, Elena Camp, Sommer Carbuccia, Laura Dadap, Seth Rettberg, Sherisse Springer, Blake Stadnik, Levin Valayil, and Jason Williams.

The creative team for the developmental presentation also features music direction by Amanda Morton (KPOP), casting by Paul Hardt Casting (Once Upon A One More Time), video design by Khristian Bork (Coco live at the Hollywood Bowl, Danny Elfman – Coachella), sound design by Hidenori Nakajo (Octet), and general management by Alchemy Production Group (The Music Man, Come From Away).  The Executive Producer is Lauren Tucker/Alchemy Production Group.

For more information about the show, visit

Hunter Bell (Book) earned an OBIE Award, a Drama League nomination, a GLAAD Media nomination, and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical, all for the original Broadway musical [title of show]. Other credits include the books for Silence! The Musical (Lucille Lortel Nomination, Outstanding Musical), Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Bellobration! (Ringling Bros. Circus), Villains Tonight! (Disney Cruise Lines), Found (Atlantic Theater, Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Book of a Musical), and Julie Andrews’ The Great American Mousical (Goodspeed). He is a co-creator of the web series “the [title of show] show” and has developed television with ABC Studios/ABC Television. Hunter is a proud graduate and distinguished alumnus of Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts, a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, a MacDowell Fellow, and currently serves on the board of the Educational Theatre Association and Educational Theatre Foundation, national arts advocacy organizations representing theatre teachers and students.

Jeff Bowen (Music and Lyrics) wrote the music and lyrics for and starred in the Broadway musical [title of show] (OBIE Award) and Now. Here. This. Additionally, he has written music and lyrics for Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Villains Tonight! (Walt Disney Company), and the theme songs for the web series “the [title of show] show” and “Squad ’85.” His songs can be heard on the original cast albums of [title of show], Now. Here. This., as well as Broadway Bares Openingsand Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project. He is a proud member of ASCAP, AEA, Writers Guild, Dramatists Guild, and the National Audubon Society. He serves as a faculty member of the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.

Ann McNamee(Music and Lyrics) received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale University, leading to a twenty-year career in teaching, choral conducting, and music research at Swarthmore College. After retiring as Professor Emerita, Ann composed for, sang, played keys, and toured with the Flying Other Brothers and Moonalice, both bands led by her husband Roger McNamee. She composed the majority of the songs on the Moonalice album that was part of T Bone Burnett’s nomination for Producer of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards. For the Lilith Fair tour in 2010, she fronted the band Ann Atomic. Another highlight was opening up for U2 at the Oakland Coliseum in November 2011. She retired from touring in 2012 in order to collaborate on musical theater projects full-time. Ann’s outside interests include co-founding the Haight Street Art Center, a community center/poster music/print shop to celebrate rock poster art in the Bay Area.

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Out of Town

The Avett Brothers Musical Swept Away Sails Into Arena Stage This Fall



Swept Away, the new musical written by Tony Award winner John Logan (book) and “America’s biggest roots band” (Rolling Stone), The Avett Brothers (music and lyrics), was announced today as part of the  2023/24 season at Arena Stage, Washington, DC (Molly Smith, Artistic Director; Edgar Dobie, Executive Producer).  Performances will begin November 25 and will continue through December 30. Tony Award winner Michael Mayer will direct the production as he had last year in the musical’s sold-out world premiere at Berkeley Rep. The Arena Stage engagement will feature an updated score with additional, never-before-heard songs. Swept Away is produced by Special Arrangement with Matthew Masten, Sean Hudock, and Madison Wells Live.

Swept Away
 is set in 1888, off the coast of New Bedford, MA. When a violent storm sinks their whaling ship, the four surviving souls — a young man in search of adventure, his older brother who has sworn to protect him, a captain at the end of a long career at sea, and a worldly first mate who has fallen from grace — each face a reckoning: How far will I go to stay alive? And can I live with the consequences?

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.

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