Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And away we go

Would you like to have your head severed and impaled on a metal spike? This is the blog that can tell you how.

But perhaps I’m getting a head of myself.

Allow me to introduce you to what I believe to be the only blog written by a professional writer that is devoted entirely to New Jersey theater (if I’m wrong, let me know and I’ll share with the rest of the class). As I regularly write on theater, music and the performing arts for the Courier News, some of the postings here will merely expand on the previews, reviews and features you can read in the paper. But the cool part of Jersey Stages is that there’s no deadlines, no space limits and no having to wait for the next assignment slot. I can write about it all and share it with you as soon as it’s written.

So can you. Got an opinion about a show you saw? Post a comment. Got an opinion about something I wrote? Go right ahead — and indulge the inner critic that’s in all of us.
Even better, if you’re involved with a show, and you want to share it with our Central Jersey audience, you now have a place to do it. And you know what? We’re open 24/7.
When you think about it, the possibilities boggle the mind.

For example, let’s return to the lead and elaborate on the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s annual “Brush Up your Shakespeare” benefit, which happens Saturday at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park. In addition to fine dining and celebrity entertainment, a silent auction will offer some unique prizes. One of them is the opportunity to have a company artist recreate your noggin, which then will be impaled on a spike and incorporated into the set design of the company’s upcoming production of “Blood and Roses.”
For information, call (973) 408-3761.

Ground rules
As a critic who has reviewed hundreds of shows, I’ve learned that the best service I can provide for the readers is focus on why someone will, or at least might, want to see a show. My goal is to help you spend your hard-earned money and limited leisure time wisely, so my first task is to answer your question, “What’s in it for me?” So, first and foremost, I look for the good in a show, share it with the readers and let them make their own decisions.

If there are problems with a play, the production, the cast or a particular cast member, I have no qualms about saying so and offering my opinion about where it all went horribly wrong. But I’m not fond of the “Cheap Shot,” a device some critics employ to spice up their reviews, often at the expense of an actor or director who just spent several weeks busting behind, often for what amounts to minimum wage or less. Just because John or Jane Doe was lousy in a particular role is no excuse to make fun of them, and I’ll frown on any Jersey Stage participants who indulge in that sort of thing.

That goes double (make that triple) for community theater, scholastic theater or other forms of amateur theater (as a rule, I write about all forms of theater, but only review professional theaters, because anyone working on their own time, and their own dime, gets a standing “O” here).

That being said. Let me add that my opinions, and reviews, also are fair game for criticism here. I’ve already been labeled a “stupid idiot” in published editorial-page letters, which is sort of a badge of honor in this business, but that’s a story for another day. The point is, let’s get a dialogue going, but let’s play nice.

Coming up
A death in the family forced me to miss the opening night of “Radio Golf” at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, but I hope to catch up with it this weekend. How very exciting that Broadway’s premiere production of August Wilson’s final play will spend a few weeks in the Garden State before hopping the Hudson. Look for a full review in the Courier next week, and some initial impressions here before the weekend passes.

In the meantime, a few more items of interest.

McCarter announces 2007-08 season
The world premiere of a new play by three-time Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Edward Albee will highlight the 2007-08 season at Princeton University’s McCarter Theatre Center.
The next main stage season also will include the world premiere of McCarter Artistic Director Emily Mann’s latest work, “A Seagull in the Hamptons,” adapted from “The Seagull” by Anton Chekov.

Rounding out the season will be a showcase for one of America’s emerging playwrights, Lydia Diamond (“Stick Fly”) and two new interpretations of old classics, Moliere’s “Tartuffe” and “Argonauts,” Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of the classic Greek tale, “Jason and the Argonauts.”

Albee’s “Me, Myself and I,” commissioned and directed by Mann, will run from Jan. 11 through Feb.17 in the Berlind Theatre. It is described as a dark, funny and moving play that takes sibling rivalry to existential heights.

Widely considered to be America’s foremost living playwright, Albee has received Pulitzer Prizes for drama for “A Delicate Balance,” “Seascape” and “Three Tall Women,” as well as a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.
For information, visit www.mccarter.org

Centenary stages Women Playwright readings
As Major League Baseball’s spring training gives way to the regular season, spring training of a sort begins at Centenary College in Hackettstown. The school’s professional Centenary Stage company begins its 15th annual Women Playwrights series this month with staged readings of two new plays.

First up is “Luna Park,” a lyrical play by award-winning playwright Caridad Svich. The reading will take place 7:30 p.m. April 4 at Centenary Theatre, 400 Jefferson St.

Svich’s plays explore the Latina sensibility and its position within the “American Dream.” In “Luna Park, Svich follows the lives of seven twenty-somethings as they spend an enchanted day in an old amusement park, where their lives are forever changed by a dramatic event.
Svich talked about her literary style in a recent interview: “Born in the U.S. of Cuban-Argentine-Spanish-Croatian parents, I have felt in a strange kind of exile even while growing up as an American,” she said. “The nomadic strain was instilled in me and has become an inevitable part of my writing vision.”

Inspired by an actual event, “Luna Park” looks at the intense relationships which can bind young people together and shape their futures.

Svich is the recipient of a Harvard University Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Bunting fellowship, a TCG/Pew National Theatre Artist Grant and twice has been short-listed for the PEN USA-West Award in Drama. Her work has been staged at the Royal Court, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Women’s Project and Edinburgh Fringe Festival, among many others. She is founder of NoPassport, sits on the editorial board of Contemporary Theatre Review (Routledge/UK) and is contributing editor to TheatreForum. She also is editor of several books on theater and performance and has been selected for inclusion in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latino History.

More about the author can be found at www.caridadsvich.com

The Women Playwrights Series is a developmental program dedicated to providing a working forum for the unique and underserved voice of women writing for the theatre today. One play from each workshop series is selected for full production in a subsequent CSC Mainstage Season. Past productions include “The Poetry of Pizza” by Deborah Brevoort and “The Dew Point,” by Neena Beber.

Admission is by donation and reservations are requested. Refreshments and “lively discussion” with the playwright and artists follow the presentation. For more reservations and information call (908) 979-0900, or visit www.centenarystageco.org.

Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, 23 Lake Shore Road, Budd Lake section of Mount Olive, will conduct an open cast call 7 p.m. April 5 and 6 for “Prescription Murder,” a play based upon the pilot episode for the TV series “Columbo.”

Director Richard Boyer is looking for three men and four women to complete the cast of this mystery-thriller. Beginners and experienced actors are welcome to audition. For more information, call (973) 691-2100.


Duncan said...

Bill, Fantastic. I hope that this effort is both fun and fruitful. Much of what you say is welcome to this Jersey actor. I have been on the other end of the "cheap shot" both here and abroad. They have a couple of ramifications. One can either be fortified to procve the critic wrong. Or one can be slammed to the floor unable to stand. What is most important to remember is that it is only ONE PERSONS OPINION.
And then there is the old saw...if you believe the good ones you have to believe the bad ones.
In any case. I am glad that yo uhave a presence on here and I will link from my very occasional blog here to this one.

Best of luck and I expect I'll be around.


Duncan said...

Ok, spelling counts.
New keyboard??