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Terrence McNally Foundation Brings Help to LGBTQ+ Artists

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Terrence McNally

Broadway producer Tom Kirdahy announced today the creation of the Terrence McNally Foundation, continuing the legendary playwright’s singular legacy of mentorship and activism.

The Terrence McNally Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to supporting bold new voices in the American theatre by providing financial and institutional support to early-career playwrights. In addition, the Foundation is committed to supporting LGBTQ causes, as McNally did throughout his life.

“Art and activism were central to Terrence’s life. At a time when living as an out gay man came at great professional cost, Terrence wrote and loved fearlessly. Terrence was a truth teller who never wrote in code. His groundbreaking plays and musicals fundamentally shaped the way a generation of Americans talked about LGBTQ+ issues. The Foundation looks forward to supporting playwrights and activists who are risk takers,” notes Tom Kirdahy, Terrence McNally’s husband.

As part of its inaugural efforts, the Foundation is thrilled to announce the launch of the fully funded Terrence McNally New Works Incubator at Rattlestick Theater. McNally was passionate about supporting early career playwrights and often could be found attending shows at small off-Broadway venues across New York City. As a Village resident, McNally had a particular love for Rattlestick and its mission of supporting playwrights. The Terrence McNally New Works Incubator is designed to support three emerging playwrights by awarding each of them critical financial support, personalized mentorship, and a one-week developmental workshop culminating in a presentation of their work. The submission process is free and open to the public and the selection panel for the inaugural cohort of McNally fellows includes Sheila Callaghan, Stephen Karam, MJ Kaufman, Donja R. Love, Taylor Mac, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel, and Chey Yew.

“The aesthetic range of Terrence’s work—from dynamic Broadway musicals to intense intimate plays—is truly singular in the pantheon of great American playwrights. For over 60 years, Terrence was a fundamental part of New York’s playwriting scene, and he played an important role in the founding of Rattlestick in 1994. This incubator honors his contribution and enables his innovative body of work and powerful spirit to be an inspiring force for emerging playwrights now and in the future,” adds Daniella Topol, the Artistic Director of Rattlestick Theater.

In addition to support for playwrights, the Foundation is committed to the furtherance of LGBTQ+ rights. McNally was an LGBTQ+ pioneer whose unapologetic activism was central to his life and career. He put gay characters on a Broadway stage well before Stonewall (And Things That Go Bump In The Night); chronicled the AIDS pandemic with plays like Lips Together, Teeth Apart and Love! Valour! Compassion!; endured death threats and a Fatwa with his play Corpus Christi; and wrote the first Broadway play to include a gay married couple (Mothers and Sons).

McNally was born and died in Florida, where he kept a home with his husband for many years. In recognition of his lifetime of service to the LGBTQ+ community, Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization, posthumously awarded McNally with their highest honor, The Voice of Equality Award, in 2021. Combatting the rise of the bigoted “Don’t Say Gay” movement in Florida, the Foundation has made a $25,000 donation to Equality Florida to help fight discriminatory legislation in the state.

“We are so grateful to the Terrence McNally Foundation for this generous gift that directly supports efforts to end Florida’s hateful and discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. We were proud to recognize Terrence McNally with our highest honor and this targeted contribution to support our legal team continues his amazing legacy,” says Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida.

In addition to a board of directors that includes Mr. Kirdahy, the Foundation is managed by McNally’s former assistant, Santino DeAngelo, who oversees his legacy.

“As a playwright and a young gay man soon-to-be married, every day I am walking down a trail first blazed by Terrence. Terrence dared to let gay people openly exist on stage and, in doing so, made room in the hearts of audiences for LGBTQ+ people to exist in real life. I am honored to be a steward of his legacy and to protect and share his words and convictions with future generations.”

McNally’s legacy lives on in his plays, musicals, and operas that continue to be performed all over the world, as well as in his papers, which are kept and open to the public at the internationally renowned humanities research center, the Harry Ransom Center in the University of Texas at Austin.

“Terrence McNally’s work and mentorship changed the face of the American theatre,” says Dr. Eric Colleary, theater historian and curator of performing arts at The University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. “His papers reveal the many lives he touched and the innovative ways he expanded the craft of storytelling. It’s an incredible gift to know that the Terrence McNally Foundation will extend Terrence’s impact for years to come.”

Terrence McNally was an American playwright, librettist, and LGBTQ+ trailblazer, described by the New York Times as “the bard of the American Theater.” One of the few playwrights of his generation to successfully pass from the avant-garde to mainstream acclaim, McNally redefined American playwriting for six decades and was the recipient of a record-breaking five Tony Awards (two for his plays Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, two for the books to his musicals Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime, and the 2019 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement). He received the 2011 Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award (he was Vice President of the Guild from 1981 to 2001), the 2015 Lucille Lortel Lifetime Achievement Award, a 1996 induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame, and, in 2018, an induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His other accolades include an Emmy Award (“Andre’s Mother”), two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, four Drama Desk Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards, two Obie Awards, and three Hull-Warriner Awards. McNally was an alumnus of Columbia University and received numerous honorary degrees, including from NYU and Juilliard, where he helped create the playwriting program in 1993. His legacy lives on in his plays, musicals, and operas that continue to be performed all over the world, as well as in his papers, which are kept and open to the public at the Harry Ransom Center in the University of Texas at Austin.

Terrence McNally’s musical, A Man of No Importance, written with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, recently opened at Classic Stage Company to rave reviews and is a New York Times “Critic’s Pick.” Directed by John Doyle and starring Jim Parsons, the new production has been extended through December 18, 2022.

For more information about the Terrence McNally Foundation, visit terrencemcnallyfoundation.org.

 

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

Cabaret

Cabaret Loses The West Bank Cafe and Laurie Beechman Theatre

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The West Bank Cafe and the Laurie Beechman theatre are closing their doors in August.

The West Bank Cafe opened in 1978. The restaurant’s early clients even included the notorious Irish gang, the Westies. The neighborhood was rough. In 1980, The New York Times awarded West Bank two stars, which increased its visibility and attracted a wider range of diners. 
In this era, West Bank Cafe’s owner, Steve Olsen opened the Laurie Beechman Theatre downstairs from the Cafe, which staged plays and hosted events nightly. A young Lewis Black was named playwright-in-residence; Howard Stern aired his third-annual live birthday broadcast from the theater; and the restaurant’s regulars included Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Bruce Willis, among others.

Soon the redevelopment of 42nd Street spread further west, bringing new businesses and residents to the area. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the restaurant was a leader in the growing Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen dining scenes. As new theaters opened in the area, the restaurant’s connection to stage and screen remained strong as well. The Laurie Beechman Theatre continued to regularly stage the work of emerging writers, actors, and singers (many of whom later became stars) as well as established acts: The Who even gave four live performances at the restaurant while their musical Tommy was running on Broadway.

After 45 years, the restaurant’s surrounding neighborhood and America’s culinary tastes have changed dramatically. West Bank Cafe has evolved along with the neighborhood and maintained a commitment to serving high-quality food in a unpretentious setting where both theater-goers and theatre stars feel at home.

In 2020 the West Bank was likely to close imminently as it faced mounting debts and a steep drop-off in customers due to COVID. By Tuesday, though, there was an online fundraiser had raised more than $330,000, shooting past its initial goal of $250,000. Donations came pouring in thanks to Tom D’Angora, a Broadway producer and longtime customer. But things took off on Christmas Day, thanks to a star-studded, nine-hour telethon, featuring speeches and performances by Sean Penn, Nathan Lane, Pete Townshend, Debra Messing, Andre De Shields and dozens more performers who have called themselves West Bank regulars during its 42-year history.

The money raised allowed Olsen to pay off the cafe’s debts and save some cash for the future. Sadly it seems 2024 might be the end.

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Cabaret

Jason Robert Brown To Perform at Carnegie Hall In October

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Now here is a concert I will definitely be attending. Three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown will perform a special concert event at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 2024, at 8:00 PM. He already had a sold-out concert at the London Palladium.

Expect to hear “Still Hurting,” and “Stars and the Moon.” I have included some of my favorite video’s of Mr. Brown’s music sung to perfection.

His repertoire, spans over thirty years of unforgettable and some of the best musical theatre songs ever written.

At the concert some of his closest collaborators and newest friends and some of the most celebrated performers of the stage and the music world – soon to be announced.

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York’s own chamber orchestra, will accompany Jason and his guests with their virtuosic 22-piece ensemble. The evening will be conducted by Jason Robert Brown and Georgia Stitt.

Tickets go on sale to the general public at 11am EST on July 19, 2024, with a general pre-sale on Wednesday, July 17th, and a Live Nation presale, starting Thursday, July 18th. Tickets start at $59.50. For ticketing information and further details, please contact CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800, carnegiehall.org, or visit the Box Office on 57th Street and Seventh Avenue.

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Broadway

Theatre News: Teeth, Soft Power, Redwood, BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical and Pre-Existing Condition

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Jenna Rose Husli, Wren Rivera, Alyse Alan Louis, Phoenix Best and Helen J Shen in Teeth (Photo: Chelcie Parry)

Teeth is coming back to New World Stages in the fall for an open-ended run. The transfer begins on October 31, Halloween night, as its official opening. While casting for the commercial remount is yet to be announced, the Playwrights Horizons cast featured Alyse Alan Louis, Steven Pasquale, Will Connolly, Jason Gotay, Jared Loftin, Courtney Bassett, Phoenix Best, Jenna Rose Husli, Lexi Rhoades, Wren Riveras and Helen J. Shen.

The off-Broadway cast album for Teeth, written by written by Pop! creator Anna K. Jacobs (book and music) and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop creator Michael R. Jackson (book and lyrics), is now available to stream on all major music platforms. The physical CD will be released August 30. Teeth opened its off-Broadway world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in March with direction by Sarah Benson and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

Based on Mitchell Lichtenstein’s screenplay for the cult-classic 2007 horror comedy, Teeth is a tale of revenge and transformation that tears through a culture of shame and repressed desire one delightfully unhinged song at a time. The musical follows Dawn O’Keefe, an evangelical Christian teen struggling to be an exemplar of purity amongst her community of fellow Promise Keeper Girls. As Dawn’s desires become tested and twisted by the men in her life, she discovers a deadly secret not even she understands: when men violate her, her body bites back—literally.

I loved Jeanine Tesori and David Henry Hwang’s SoftPower when it appeared at The Public, now it’s coming to the Signature Theatre in Washington  D.C., newly revised production and directed by Signature Associate Artistic Director Ethan Heard. The show opens August 6 and runs until September 15. Could NYC be next? The cast will feature Steven Eng as DHH, Daniel May (Flower Drum Song) as Xue Xing, and Grace Yoo (Hadestown) as Hillary Clinton with Eymard Cabling (Miss Saigon national tour) as Randy Ray and others, Andrew Cristi (A Christmas Story) as Chief Justice and others, Jonny Lee Jr. as Bobby Bob and others, Quynh-My Luu as Waiter and others, Christopher Mueller as VEEP and others, Ashley D. Nguyen as Jīng and others, Chani Wereley as Betsy Ross and others, Nicholas Yenson as Holden Caulfield and others, and Sumié Yotsukura as Flight Attendant and others. Olivia Clavel-Davis, Brian Dauglash, Emily Song Tyler, and Joey Urgino are swings.

After the 2016 election, when a Chinese American playwright is attacked by an unknown assailant, he hallucinates a Golden Age musical comedy about a Chinese theater producer and Hillary Clinton falling in love. Hilarious and biting, this political satire dares to ask: Does American Democracy still work? And is it worth believing in?

An exhilarating ride through political absurdity with a faceoff between Chinese and American exceptionalism, Soft Power makes an electric debut in the nation’s capital.

Idina Menzel, will open at the Nederlander Theatre in Redwood. This new Broadway musical starts previews January 24,  with a February 13 opening. Written and directed by Tony Award nominee Tina Landau, Redwood features music by Kate Diaz and lyrics by Diaz and Landau. The show is conceived by Landau and Menzel, with additional contributions by Menzel. The musical premiered earlier this year at La Jolla Playhouse. “I made my Broadway debut at the Nederlander Theatre in Rent almost 30 years ago, so to be returning there with Redwood is very emotional for me as it feels like a real homecoming. It has been such a gift to collaborate with Tina and Kate on this show, and I’m so proud to bring it to Broadway” stated Menzel. Redwood follows Jesse (Menzel), a successful businesswoman, mother and wife who seems to have it all, but inside, her heart is broken. Finding herself at a turning point, Jesse leaves everyone and everything behind, gets in her car and drives. Thousands of miles later, she hits the majestic forests of Northern California, where a chance meeting and a leap of faith change her life forever.

BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical has found is set to open at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre on April 5, 2025. Tony Award®-winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell brings the Queen of the Animated Screen to the theater  with celebrated multiple Grammy® Award-winning composer David Foster, Tony Award®-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead and Tony Award®-winning book writer Bob Martin. This score is fabulous and we can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

Edie Falco Photo by Emilio Madrid

Today, producers O’Henry Productions, The Cohn Sisters, Jessica Chase, Taylor Williams, David Blum, Jesse Eisenberg and Charlie Kaufman announced that Pre-Existing Condition by Tony Award® nominee Marin Ireland will extend for two weeks through August 17 and will star Emmy Award® winner Edie Falco in the rotating role of “A” beginning on August 6

Pre-Existing Condition, directed by Maria Dizzia, is currently playing at the Connelly Theater (220 East 4th St.) in the intimate 60-seat Upstairs space. The play was originally set to close on August 3.

Pre-Existing Condition is a play exploring the challenges, shared community, and everyday indignities of learning to move forward after a life-altering, harmful relationship.

About the play, Ms. Falco said, “I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of something that moved me so much as a spectator. It involves an intimacy and vulnerability that I’ve sorely missed in the theater. I can’t wait to work with these people who I deeply respect so that hopefully more people can see and feel what I did when I saw the play.”

The role of “A” has rotated throughout the production and is currently played by Tony Award® winner Deirdre O’Connell (Dana H.). Tavi Gevinson (“American Horror Story”) will play the role from July 24-August 3 with Ms. Falco starting August 6-August 17. Previously, the role was played by Emmy Award® winner Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”), Julia Chan (Uncle Vanya) and Tony Award® nominee Maria Dizzia (In the Next Room).

The cast also includes Sarah Steele (“The Good Fight”), Dael Orlandersmith (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Yellowman), Greg Keller (Alliance); with Raquel Chavez (Uncle Vanya) and Gregory Connors (The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window), understudies.

Tony Award® nominee Anne Kauffman (Mary Jane) serves as Creative Consultant on the production. In addition to Ms. Kauffman, the creative team includes Louisa Thompson (A Simulacrum), Set Designer; Tony Award® nominee Enver Chakartash (Stereophonic), Costume Designer; Tony Award® nominee Isabella Byrd (Enemy of the People, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club), Lighting Designer; Tony Award® nominee Palmer Hefferan (The Skin of Our Teeth), Sound Designer. Taylor Williams is Casting Director, Ashley-Rose Galligan is Production Stage Manager, Eric Nolan Mattingly is Assistant Stage Manager with Wagner Johnson Productions serving as General Management.  Associate Producer is Joe Meyer. David Manella at Loeb & Loeb LLP serves as Production Counsel.

For information on performance dates, ticketing lottery information please visit preexistingconditionplay.com. Tickets start at $49.

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Off Broadway

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme Is a New Play Still In Its Embronic State

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In the press release and on their own site Coney Island Nursery Rhyme sounds so intriguing. This historical fiction set in Connecticut and New York in the 1930’s is based on a true story. They state; Follows the esteemed incubator-doctor, showman, and unofficial father of Neonatology, Martin A. Couney. In a time where eugenics-focused medical culture refused to employ incubator technology. Martin A. Couney took it upon himself to save premature babies in his own incubators at a sideshow at Coney Island where funds were used to hire nurses and essentially create an unofficial hospital. We focus on Beatrice Winthrop, a woman from the American gentry who seeks Couney’s assistance after giving birth prematurely.

This is what we are told, but what the play is about, is less about the doctor and more about Raymond Abbot (Zachary Speigel) a fool who has a secret to confess. His friend Beatrice Winthrop (Jessica Noboa) has had a premie and her mother Candace Lahey (Phyllis Lindy) thinks the child would be better off dead. The doctor in charge (Judge Boothby) doesn’t hold out much hope and wants to send the child to Chicago. In the meantime Lt. Peter Petrovick (Pete Marzilli), wants to capture the killer of Mrs. Winthrop husband who was shot dead by his friend.

Jessica Noboa

The play by Lubomir Rzepka spends the first hour teaching us nothing about eugenics, making us wonder why we are here. We are introduced to Martin A. Couney (Mike Timoney), but Mrs. Winthrop dismisses him, until Raymond Abbot steals the child, saving the child’s life.

Mike Timoney, Jessica Noboa, Phyllis Lindy

Rzepka also directed the piece, but this was a mistake, as the actors for the most part scream for two hours.

Mike Timoney, Zachary Speigel

So little is spent on “The Infantorium”, in which visitors paid 25 cents to view prematurely born babies displayed in incubators. Thanks to Couney, who was one of the first advocates for premature babies, and his Infantoriums have become widely accredited with saving the lives of over 6,500 premature babies in the 30’s. Couney is additionally recognised as one of the first pioneers of neonatological technology. Now that is interesting.

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme: 754 9th Ave 4th floor (word of warning NO elevator). Premiering for 8 select shows July 12 through July 20th as an Equity Approved Showcase at the NuBox Theatre.

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Dance

Ain’t Done Bad Bringing Choreography, Dance and Country Music To Light

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Right now shows that harness dance and cult singer songwriters are captivating the theatre scene. You have Illinoise which won Justin Peck  a Tony Award for best choreography, with songs from Sufjan Stevens to give it soul. The Tony winning musical The Outsiders with music by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay & Zach Chance) and the brilliant choreography by Rick Kuperman & Jeff Kuperman, whose moves make their dancers soar. And now the newest kid on the block Ain’t Done Bad,Ain’t Done Bad, conceived, directed, choreographed and performed by Jakob Karr, with songs by country singer-songwriter Orville Peck.

Karr performed on on Broadway in Cats, Cirque Du Soleil’s Volta and Viva Elvis  So You Think You Can Dance Season 6 – Runner Up,  America’s Got Talent, Glee; Company XIV and many more. Peck, is a South African country musician based in the United States and Canada. He is well-known for wearing a mask and not showing his face publicly. In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named Peck among the fifty heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people”.

Ian Spring, Adrian Lee, Jakob Karr Photo By
Matthew Murphy

Ain’t Done Bad’s story is basic…gay boy (Karr) feels like a misfit in his hometown and leaves to find love in the big city. Has multiple trysts until he finds the one (Joshua Escover). Returns home to be accepted by his family, especially his dad (Adrian Lee).

Jakob Karr, Joshua Escover Photo By
Matthew Murphy

The dancing is sensual, sexy, joyous and exuberant. Karr’s choreography athletic as he keeps his dancers fluid, yet precise. Karr is an exquisite dancer with extensions that go on for miles as he leaps, spins and splits mid air.

The Company Photo By
Matthew Murphy

Also dancing were Megumi Iwama as the mother, Ian Spring as his brother, Caden Hunter, Madison O’Connor, Luke Quails, Yusaku Komori and Jordan Lombardi as his friends. Everyone in this cast is an accomplished dancer that is being given a chance to excel and show off their multiple skills. They are a joy to watch.

The costumes by Philip Lupo help define the characters, as each dancer plays multiple roles. I loved the scenic design by Lupo, Joey Coombs, and Blake Schulte of rustic wood and mirrors.

The show is a celebration of gay pride both in its story and music choice. This is a coming out, that is part fantasy and part what could and should be.

Ain’t Done Bad: Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, by Blue Topaz Productions and Renaissance Theatre Company until August 31st.

 

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