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The Streamed and In-Person Walden Grows Futuristically Strong and True Outdoors Thanks to TheaterWorks Hartford



The world is collapsing all around us,” they tell us in the dynamic environmental Walden, and it’s impossible not to take in that sentiment and feel it hit hard and deep into our collective soul. It’s exactly what, I feel, we all are experiencing these days. The news cycle is continually playing havoc with our hope and belief systems, smashing us left, right, and center with bad news and images from Afghanistan and Lebanon (to name only two), not to mention the constant weight of COVID variants, infection numbers, hospitalizations, and possible lockdowns, alongside the horrifically upsetting topic of global warming, and the seemingly irreversible damage we are doing to our planet daily. It’s nonstop, and overwhelming to say the least. And in that emphatically stated idea at the heart of Walden, the in-person and streamed production of Amy Berryman’s captivating debut play, the warning, as terrifying as it is, appears to be true, not just in the play, but in everything that surrounds our current newsworthy reality. 

Gabriel Brown and Diana Oh In TheaterWorks Hartford’s Walden.

Brought back and extended by popular demand by TheaterWorks Hartford, in partnership with Riverfront RecaptureWalden delivers a sideways punch to the gut that resonates with emotional connection and clarity, just like we remembered before live theatre went dark back in March of 2020. The crickets lull us peacefully, as the opening streamed bits of photography, delicately assembled by Miceli Productions, the video production and editing company responsible for all of the visuals here, blow in the fresh-aired wonderment that surrounds this live (and lucky) outdoor audience. “It’s totally safe, don’t need a mask,” they say to their futuristic newly-arrived guest, and somehow, internally, we feel the same sense of peace settling into our bones. Directed with finesse, like a gentle but knowing wind, by Mei Ann Teo (Jillian Walker’s SKiNFoLK: An American Show), the live production and filming deserves a “Brian Brew” toast, for saving us all in this time of deep concern. Deep in the roots of this beautifully crafted site-specific production, dutifully taking place on a natural tree-lined site close to the Connecticut River, the enhanced sounds by Hao Bai’s 360-degree sound design bridges the future to our present with precision and insight. Somewhere in the creation of this environmentally friendly production, the company’s first outdoor show in its 35-year history, the play finds its way to the heart of our concern, digging itself into the multi-layered dynamic without ever losing its strong political persona, becoming as compelling and awe-inspiring as the land that surrounds the staging.

In the gorgeously envisioned remote cabin in the woods, impeccably designed by You-Shin Chen (AFO’s Monsoon Season), a former NASA architect, Stella, embodied beautifully by an engaging Diana Oh ({my lingerie play}), is working hard to build and grow a newly redesigned life with a climate-conscious Earth Activist by the name of Bryan, passionately played by the deliberate Gabriel Brown (Signature Theatre’s Love and Money). Their low impact habitation, consisting of a stunningly constructed cabin, a chicken coop, and a well cared for vegetable garden, dynamically brought to light by lighting designer Jeanette Oi-Suk-Yew, takes on the serenity and power of the trees and the wind. As dusk flows across the landscape, the couple prepares, in their own way, for an arrival and a celebration (“but not a party“), but it’s clear that a storm seems to be brewing somewhere beyond the leaves and the river, and what kind of storm it will be remains unclear. 

Jenna Yi and Diana Oh In TheaterWorks Hartford’s Walden.

Stella, it seems with great conflict, has invited her estranged twin sister, Cassie, portrayed with clear conviction by Jeena Yi (Ivo Van Hove’s Network), to their little slice of eco-heavan. The sister is a NASA botanist, fresh of the ship after a celebrated year-long mission on the Moon. As the two try to find unity and connection over a glass of vintage wine, tender old wounds show their thorns, playing havoc with their reunion and the introduction by Stella of Bryan, her fiance to their fragile dynamic. It’s a strongly constructed conflict, easily displayed in Alice Tavener’s stellar costumes that reinforce the tug of war between future and DIY-repurposed design. Deeply rooted in a sibling rivalry that tore them apart many years ago, both unearth and share their twisted struggle to find a more fulfilled life sprouting forth with meaning and connection, each while feeling the uneasy push and pull of historical familial forces that were planted so firmly by a now deceased father.

In this gorgeous invention by Berryman, the North American premiere of her play marks the glorious return to in-person viewing for TheaterWorks Hartford. Having opened on July 29th, Walden has been made available for streaming online from August 15th to the 29th. For those of us who stream it online, and for those lucky souls in the audience wearing sanitized headsets, the intimacy and connection to the immersive environment is palpable. Set in the not-so-distant future, the play sets its global ambitions inside a compelling story about sisters dealing with grief, disconnection, jealousy, and an unforgiving and unspoken estrangement. It digs its way through the tangles of discontentment, unearthing themes of climate change, space travel, and a rivalry that has been planted deep in the earth for ages. We “really messed this one up,” they say, and even though, at that particular moment in the play, they are talking about our planet, the more intimate concept seems to parallel their fractured attachment and complex engagement. The central question that follows, in a way, is about both of these circling hemispheres; the personal intimate dilemma and the much larger global crises. Is it “way too late to make a difference?” they wonder, yet trapped inside that tough question, these three characters take on both realms, hoping to find some sort of balance and mutual understanding in the futuristic predicament that has grown up strong before them.

Walden came from my deep anxiety about climate change,” playwright Amy Berryman (The Whole of You) explains. “It’s set in the future where climate change has intensified, and humanity is struggling with whether to save the planet or flee it.” The same could be said of the two pairs of relationships so wisely seeded in the dirt and design of Walden. Growing up and outward with deliberation within this site-specific, outdoor, immersive staging that embraces the natural beauty of light and air, the intensity of the earth’s desperation for salvation encapsulates every twist and turn of this stunningly crafted play. As the sun sets, and darkness encroaches on the land that surround the audience and the set, the wrestling for identity around a Mars mission intensities, tearing at the fabric of their fragile relationships. Will they flee in desperation? Or will they stay and fight to save all that could grow up strong underneath their feet? 

Gabriel Brown, Diana Oh, and Jenna Yi In TheaterWorks Hartford’s Walden.

In-person performances of Walden, starting at $95, will take place at Riverfront Recapture, located at 100 Meadow Road in Windsor, CT, and will run Tuesday–Sunday at 8pm through August 29, 2021. A recording of the production will be available to stream for $25 from August 15–29, 2021. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 860.527.7838.

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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


The Olivier Awards Return



Celebrate the very best in British theatre in a star-studded evening as the Olivier Awards return to the Royal Albert Hall on April 2nd.

Three-time Olivier Award nominee & Primetime Emmy winner, Hannah Waddingham will be hosting the awards for the first time.

The event will feature performances from all of the Best New Musical nominees, including The Band’s Visit, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Sylvia and Tammy Faye. Also performing will be Oklahoma! and Sister Act, both nominated for the Best Musical Revival award, as well as Disney’s Newsies, which has been nominated for Matt Cole’s choreography.

The multi-Olivier Award winner The Book of Mormon, will be performing to mark its ten-year anniversary in the West End. Additionally, special award winner Arlene Philips will be honored with a tribute from the cast of Grease.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on Magic Radio from 6pm with Ruthie Henshall and Alice Arnold hosting.

The highlights program will also be aired on ITV1 and ITVX at 10:15 pm in the UK and via Official London Theatre’s YouTube channel elsewhere.

And the nominees are:

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Out of Town

The Unpacking of the First Métis Man of Odesa, An Interview




Punctuate! Theatre is unpacking a love story. A love story about a couple. A love story about Ukraine. And a love story against an unbelievably complicated backdrop. Starting at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, the company is ushering forth the world premiere of First Métis Man of Odesa before it spins itself out on stages across Canada. Spanning continents and set against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Métis playwright and Punctuate! Artistic Director, Matthew MacKenzie (Dora Award-winning playwright for Bears, After the Fire, The Particulars) joins forces with his wife, the award-winning Ukrainian actress Mariya Khomutova (Odesa Film Festival Grand Prix – The Golden Duke award-winner NONNATwo People), to tell the story of their COVID courtship and share an intimate perspective on the personal impacts of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova.

Drawn from their real-life love story, a story that is ultimately still unfolding to this very day, First Métis Man of Odesa unpacks the journey of Matt and Masha’s love that spans continents where distance and conflicts can’t tame their passionate connection. After meeting on a theatre research trip in Kyiv, a spark is struck, and a romance between a Métis Playwright and a Ukrainian artist is ignited, taking them from the beaches of the Black Sea to the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, within the onset of a global pandemic, the eruption of a brutal war, but also the many joyous moments that this union begets, including marriage and the birth of their son.

During the height of the lockdown in 2021, an initial version of this piece was presented as a radio play at Factory Theatre, written by MacKenzie and directed by Nina Lee Aquino. This March, First Métis Man of Odesa, as directed by Lianna Makuch (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate!’s Barvinok), makes its stage debut, offering a compelling continuation of the initial story told in that first radio play. The couple, Matthew MacKenzie and his wife, Mariya Khomutova, sat down with Frontmezzjunkies and thankfully answered a few questions about their incredible journey from that first love-struck connection to its World Premiere at The Theatre Centre in Toronto.

Tell me, how you decided to embark on telling your own story and what the beginning of this creative process looked like for you two?

Initially, Matt wrote an audio play for Factory Theatre about our romance, then getting married and having their son during the pandemic.  The plan had been to expand the piece for the stage, a plan that took on much urgency after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Both the pandemic and war have a deeply dehumanizing effect, so our hope in telling our love story is to share the human side of these major world events; a human side that headlines and news clips can’t fully capture.

What aspect of your character, or your involvement with/creation of this play resonates the most powerfully inside you?

For both of us, the opportunity to share all the joy, humour, anger, and frustration we’ve experienced in the past few years is a really therapeutic process.  Many of our friends and family only know snippets of what we’ve been through, so the opportunity to tell our story across the country is one we are deeply grateful for.

The phrase “you don’t know what someone is carrying with them” has really hit home over the past couple of years, as we have had to contend with some pretty epic challenges as a couple and as individuals.

Tell me a bit about what it is like to bring your character to the stage? What does mean to you to be telling this story?

We play ourselves in the play, but we very much play versions of ourselves in the play.  We had to mine conflict between us out of a few outbursts, as there haven’t actually been a lot of [conflicts] in our relationship so that we could bring the drama of what we are going through to the fore.

Challenges of playing ourselves have included the fact that [Matt] is not a trained actor, while Mariya is. Mariya though comes from a theatre tradition that was almost entirely focused on the classics, so playing herself in a play based on her life is definitely a new and challenging experience!

Tell me a bit more about your development process? Was there a typical ‘first read’ or was it different, given your own story inspired the work…

We were able to conduct several development workshops over a period of six months.  There was no shortage of content that we could derive from our lives, so the challenge was determining what to keep and what to let fall away. Even after our first read, we cut 15 pages from our rehearsal draft.  Events in our lives and in Ukraine will no doubt continue to necessitate the evolution of our script.

What’s been the most challenging part of this process for you?

For Mariya, it was buying into the idea (that is quite a common one in Canada) that a play about someone’s real life can be art.  Seeing Hailey Gillis’s My Ex-boyfriend Yard Sale, really helped her believe this was possible.

For Matt, it met the challenge of performing for the first time in ten years.  The last time he performed, he made his friends promise they would never let him perform again, but all agreed it didn’t make much sense for anyone else to play him in this piece.

The most rewarding?

Having already performed several shows in Kamloops, the most rewarding part of this process is sharing this story with refugees from Ukraine.  Their responses have been incredible and have really encouraged us to share our story with as many people as possible.

What do you want the audience to get from this play, and from your character?

We want the audience to join us as we relive our sweeping love story, from Odesa to Toronto.  We want the audience to see the human side of the conflict in Ukraine.  And we want the audience to leave the theatre with the hope that love can and will conquer all.

First Métis Man of Odesa is in Toronto for its world premiere run at the Franco Boni Theatre @ The Theatre Centre from March 30 – April 8, 2023 (opening March 31). Following the world premiere in Toronto, First Métis Man of Odesa will appear at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, The Cultch in Vancouver, and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. For information and tickets, please visit

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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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