Tag Archive for alumni plays

Play by Greenidge ’96 Explores Pressures of Today’s Teens

Milk Like Sugar by Ryan Maxwell

Milk Like Sugar. (Photo by Ryan Maxwell)

On Nov. 2, Milk Like Sugar, a new play by Kirsten Greenidge ’96, premiered at the Mosaic Theater Company in Washington, D.C. Broadway World calls it a “rousing story about young women coming of age in a time when issues of acceptance, mentorship, and materialism challenge the dreams and ambitious of so many teens.” This production is a D.C. premiere, for both the play and for the playwright. Greenidge has had extensive production history around the country, but had yet to premiere a production in D.C.

Greenidge, who majored in history at Wesleyan, was inspired to write the play “because I wanted to write about young people grappling with growing up without choices. Since the play was first produced at La Jolla Playhouse and Playwrights Horizons, it’s beginning to find a wider audience, and that’s wonderful.”

Milk Like Sugar, commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse and Theater Masters, in association with Playwrights Horizons and Women’s Project Productions, premiered in 2011, before transferring Off-Broadway to Peter Jay Sharp Theater later that year. In addition to the 2012 Obie Award for playwriting, Milk Like Sugar received the 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award, and the 2011 San Diego Critics Circle Craig Noel award for Outstanding New Play.

Greenidge, who focuses on placing underrepresented voices on stage, has many projects in the works, including commissions from CompanyOne, Yale Repertory Theater, Denver Center Theater, The Goodman, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, and Emerson Stage, where she and director Melia Bensussen will adapt the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Common Ground. Her latest work, How Soft the Lining, inspired by the lives of Mary Todd Lincoln and her freed black seamstress, Elizabeth Keckly, just premiered on Nov. 5 in Boston at the Boston Center for the Arts. The show will run until Nov. 20.

Actor, Director Schaal ’06 Returns to Campus for Sold-Out Premiere of Go Forth

Kaneza Schaal ’06 (Photo by Randi Plake)

Kaneza Schaal ’06 spoke to Wesleyan theater majors Sept. 15. (Photo by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography)

Actor and director Kaneza Schaal ’06 returned to campus for her New England premiere of GO FORTH (2015), a series of vignettes with projection, sound, and dance inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The four performances took place over the past weekend to a sold-out audience.

At a special lunch surrounded by a group of theater majors, one being GO FORTH ensemble member Cheyanne Williams ’17, Schaal explained how the Book of the Dead inspired her production: “I was drawn to the Book of the Dead after experiencing the loss of my father. I went to Rwanda for the ceremony and experienced a ritualized grieving process that helped me process his death.”

Schaal credits her time studying theater and psychology for preparing her for a creative career. “What I gained at Wesleyan was the opportunity to learn many languages, psychology, and theater, which all came together to how I make my work.” Furthermore, she explained that it was the faculty and staff who really supported her to go out and make what interested her.

After Wesleyan, Schaal came up in the downtown experimental theater community, first working with The Wooster Group, then with companies and artists including Elevator Repair Service, Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, Claude Wampler, Jay Scheib, New York City Opera and National Public Radio. Schaal is an Arts-in-Education advocate and just returned from a new project with the International Children’s Book Library in Munich, Germany working with young Syrian and Eritrean refugees to address migration and storytelling.

Richards ’69: Busy on Broadway This Fall

Jeffrey Richards ’69

Six-time Tony Award winner Jeffrey Richards ’69 is co-producing three exciting productions on Broadway this fall season.

First up is a new revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which begins previews on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 and opens on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Booth Theatre (222 West 45th Street), exactly 50 years to the day of the play’s original opening. This alternately hilarious and devastating dissection of marriage and grief, directed by Tony Award nominee Pam MacKinnon (Clybourne Park), features Tracy Letts and Amy Morton—the playwright and the star of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning smash hit August: Osage County—as George and Martha, one of theater’s most notoriously dysfunctional couples.

This acclaimed production originally ran at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company last winter before transferring to Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage last spring.

Amy Morton and Tracy Letts in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

In a review of this production in the Chicago Sun-Times, Hedy Weiss wrote: “I defy any onlooker to the electrifying, often revelatory revival of this American classic—now in a Steppenwolf Theatre production that is sure to make history—to shield their eyes or ears from the ensuing massacre. Thanks to the most meticulous, probing, scalpel-like direction by Pam MacKinnon, and the galvanic yet gorgeously calibrated performances of Tracy Letts and Amy Morton as George and Martha, this enthralling take on Albee’s play makes you feel like an embedded reporter in a harrowing living-room war.”

Richards also is a co-producer of the 30th anniversary production of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross, which begins previews on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 and opens on Sunday, November 11 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street). The exemplary cast includes Oscar Award- and Tony Award-winner Al Pacino, Emmy Award-winner Bobby Cannavale (TV’s Boardwalk Empire), David Harbour, Richard Schiff (TV’s The West Wing), Jeremy Shamos (Clybourne Park), and John C. McGinley (TV’s Scrubs), under the direction of Tony Award-awinner Daniel Sullivan (The Merchant of Venice, Proof).

The play deals with the lives of four Chicago real estate agents whose jobs are on the line and are willing to do anything, however unethical, to close a deal. Mamet himself worked in a real estate office in Chicago in 1969 setting up appointments for salesmen, and his play is inspired by some of the cutthroat politics he witnessed.

Richards’ third production this fall is the world premiere of The Anarchist, a provocative new play by David Mamet, which begins previews on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 and opens on Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street). Set in a female penitentiary, the work features two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone (Evita, Gypsy) as a longtime inmate with ties to a violent political organization, who pleads for parole from a warden committed to having her stay in jail, played by Debra Winger (Wesleyan parent ’09). Winger is making her Broadway debut and is best known for her Oscar nominated performances in the films Terms of Endearment, Shadowlands, and An Officer and a Gentleman. Mamet will direct his own play.

For tickets to these plays, contact Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or 1-800-432-7250 outside the New York metro area.

Una Aya Osato ’04: Tragi-Comic Clowning Around in LOL: The End

Una Aya Osato ’04

Una Aya Osato ’04

Performer, educator, and writer Una Aya Osato ’04, premieres LOL: The End, a three-person production (with her father and sister), at FRIGID NY Theater Festival in February.

In her Kickstarter blog, Osato describes the production as “a funny and physical look at natural and human-made disasters through the eyes of three clowns: a place where tragedy meets comedy meets stupid.”

The creator of several award winning one-woman shows, JapJAP, Recess, and Keep It Movin’, Osato has performed in theaters, classrooms, community organizations, prisons, and universities. Additionally, she has taught performing arts in elementary, middle, and high schools over the past decade.

In describing her choice of protagonists for LOL:The End, Osato says, “Clowns are unafraid to fail. They continually search for answers when others tell them there is no point in doing so. They immerse themselves in every emotion, unafraid of pain and tears, always searching for joy and laughter, creating new worlds wherever they go. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of destruction we live with, our family looked to clowns with the hope that by allowing the ‘idiot’ to interpret for us, that we would be better able to understand our relationship to disaster and find the ways that still remain to come out hopeful and laughing.”

For more information see: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/641143418/lol-the-end and http://www.frigidnewyork.info/VenueShows.aspx?id=2.

Peretz ’84 Hosts Kail ’99, Miranda ’02 Reception in Miami

Andy Peretz ’84, Thomas Kail ’99 and Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02.

The nationwide tour of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical In the Heights ended its run with a Wesleyan flourish.

Andy Peretz ’84, inspired by the Wesleyan on Broadway alumni events, began organizing an event in Miami to celebrate with the local Wesleyan community at the Arsht Center Theater.

In The Heights, created and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, was directed by Thomas Kail ’99, who agreed to conduct a talk for the alumni at a special reception at the Miami performance on April 2.

“What an amazingly articulate guy, so full of life,” says Peretz of Kail, who also directed Lombardi. Kail spent time with his host that day, talking about the collaborative process of turning Miranda’s one-time student play (performed in its first incarnation in the ’92 Theater) to the award-winner it is today.

Later that day, Kail gave Peretz another surprise: the news that Miranda had agreed to join the Wesleyan reception.

“It was indeed a unique experience to watch a Tony Award-winning play and then immediately afterward meet with the two people most responsible for the show’s creative distinctions,” Peretz says and adds. “Not lost on me was the unselfishness of Kail and Miranda in providing us with insight into the theatrical process – from both a creative and financial perspective.

“I truly believe that they offered themselves in this way because of their love of Wesleyan and sense of community. We were indeed very proud to be part of something so ‘Wesleyan.’”

Anderson ’98 Garners Praise for Midsummer Night’s Dream Set

Set design by Cameron Anderson '98.

A full-page feature article in the Jan. 22 Los Angeles Times praised designer Cameron Anderson ’98 for her work for South Coast Repertory’s new production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Calling the scenic design “striking,” reviewer Charlotte Stoudt also praised Anderson for her use of light. Director Mark Rucker was quoted, also: “‘Usually you get to the forest and that’s it, visually, for a couple of acts. … But Cameron found a way for the forest to continually transform,’” he said.

Anderson, who works in both theater and opera set design, explained, ‘”The fairies are constantly stealing things in the play and repurposing them, like umbrellas,’ says Anderson. ‘Our trees are Plexiglas covered with thousands of love notes and book pages that the fairies have stolen. When the trees are backlit, they glow. They can also fly in and out depending on where we are in the forest. There’s also a ramp made of drawers, out of which fairies pull their loot.’”

See her full portfolio on her site, where you’ll also find The Seattle Post-Intelligencer praising her design for Cosi Fan Tutti as “[V]ery simple but quite dashing in its visual appeal… and the garden of the last act in which the high ‘bushes,’ providing handy exits and entrances, resemble a Richard Serra sculpture, in a rococo mood, wrapped a la Christo. All quite delicious and amusing.”

Additionally, Anderson notes that “Other upcoming productions include Gianni Schicchi, Les Mamelles de Tiresias, and Seven Deadly Sins at Central City Opera, West Side Story at the Vancouver Opera, West Side Story at the Kilden Performing Arts Center in Norway, and Simon Boccanegra at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.”

Bossa Nova by Greenidge ’96 Premieres at the Yale Rep

At left, Francesca Choy-Kee, Ella Joyce and Malenky Welsh in Bossa Nova by Kirsten Greenidge ’96. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Bossa Nova, a play by Kirsten Greenidge ’96, recently had its world premiere opening at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, where it runs through Dec.18.

Greenidge’s play centers around Dee Paradis, a young African American  woman who struggles to define herself under the watchful eyes of her mother and her jazz-loving white history teacher. The play moves around in time from the early 1980s to Dee’s school days a decade earlier and then back again.

In her New York Times review of the play, Anita Gates wrote: “Ms. Greenidge has a lovely way with language and piercing insight into issues of identity and self-worth….Dee…is an important creation, representing those who have found themselves torn between cultures and confused by other people’s perceptions of them.”

In his Boston Globe review, Don Aucoin said: “Race. Class. Family. Identity. Power. These are some of the complex chords touched in Bossa Nova, Kirsten Greenidge’s lyrical and ambitious new drama….”

Greenidge is also the author of the plays Milk Like Sugar, The Luck of the Irish, Rust, The Curious Walk of the Salamander, 103 Within The Veil, Sans-Culottes in the Promised Land, and The Gibson Girl. She has developed her work at Sundance (Utah and Ucross), Magic Theatre, Madison Rep, New Dramatists, the Mark Taper Forum, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Hourglass Theatre, A.S.K. Theatre Projects, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and other venues. She earned her BA at Wesleyan University, and her MFA at the Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she was a Barry Kemp Fellow. She is currently working on a commission from Yale Repertory Theatre.

Wood ’84 Excels as Roy Cohn in Angels in America Revival

Frank Wood '84 as Roy Cohn

Frank Wood ’84 is currently starring in the acclaimed off-Broadway revival of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize- winning play Angels in America, which has been playing to sold-out houses at the Signature Theatre in Manhattan since opening this fall and runs through March 27.

Set in New York City during the mid-’80s, this epic work follows the interconnected lives of several people affected by the AIDS crisis, intense spiritual experiences, and the Reagan Administration. Wood plays the demanding role of the closeted gay lawyer, Roy Cohn.

Tony Award-winner Wood

Wesleyan on Broadway Lombardi Raises Funds for Financial Aid, Athletics

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More than 700 Wesleyan students, staff, faculty, alumni and parents attended Lombardi Nov. 16 at the Circle in the Square Theater in Manhattan.

Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations, and Thomas Kail '99.

Wesleyan scored a winning touchdown with a Nov. 16 benefit presentation of the new Broadway play Lombardi before a sell-out crowd of nearly 700 alumni, staff, faculty, students and friends at Manhattan’s Circle in the Square Theater. The event, part of the Wesleyan on Broadway series, raised $312,000 for financial aid and athletics.

View the entire Lombardi photo album online here.

Directed by Thomas Kail ’99, Lombardi portrays key moments in the life of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. Kail previously directed the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, which was created and composed by Wesleyan contemporary Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02. Lombardi stars Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) as Lombardi and Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?, Ugly Betty) as his wife.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth accepts the check following the performance. (Photos by Nick Russell '08)

After the play, Wesleyan president Michael Roth interviewed Kail before alumni, parents, students, friends, faculty and staff. Kail spoke about his work as a theater director and his contributions to the hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme, which he co-created with fellow Wesleyan alumni.

Feiffer ’07 Takes the Lead in Tigers Be Still

Halley Feiffer '07, at right, and John Magaro in Tigers Be Still. (Photo by Sara Krulwich / The New York Times)

Halley Feiffer ’07 may have her juiciest acting role yet in the new off-Broadway play, Tigers Be Still, which opened this week at the Roundabout Theater Company’s Black Box Theater. The Sam Gold-directed play was written by Kim Rosenstock.

Feiffer says, “I play Sherry, a 24-year-old art therapist who is emerging from a six-month-long depression as she embarks on her first job, teaching art to Middle School children and working on the side as an art therapist with a troubled young man. Though my depression has lifted, my life is still in shambles—I live with my sister who is always drunk and on the couch; my mother lives upstairs and hasn’t come out of her room in a year; my boss carries a rifle, and a tiger is on the loose in my town.”

In a rave review

Lane ’76 Writes Book for New Broadway Musical

Cast members of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. (Photo by Tony Cenicola / The New York Times)

Jeffrey Lane ’76 is the book writer for a new Broadway musical, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, based on the Spanish film of the same name directed by master filmmaker, Pedro Almodovar. The musical deals with love and abandonment in 1980s Madrid and stars Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sherie Rene Scott, and Laura Benanti. The show is directed by Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza), and the composer and lyricist is David Yazbek, who previously worked with Lane on the hit Broadway musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, also adapted from a film. Lane was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for that show, which continues to be produced in theaters around the United States.

According to a recent New York Times article about the new project, Lane and Yazbek received offers to adapt films by John Hughes and other American comedies into musicals, but Lane