Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #21

August 17th, 2006  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
174 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21Theater artists, like other Americans, worry about the Middle East, the environment, gas prices – you name it.

So while musicals are great fun to do, perhaps the times call for more serious fare. The local alliance of theaters, StageSource, put on a conference, August 5, at Brandeis University’s Spingold Theatre, which looked at that concern.

“The Artist As Citizen” drew some 175 actors, directors, producers, and backstage artists for the all-day think tank.

Early on, theater commentator Bill Marx suggested that theaters, nowadays, seemed afraid of taking sides of a political nature for fear of losing audiences. “For instance, I’ve seen very little reaction from the theater community to the war in Iraq.” he said. He thinks drama can provoke discussion more effectively than newspaper and media coverage – and that discussion is an important role for theater to take.

Later, other panelists led by Nancy Kindelan, a theater professor at Northeastern University, felt that discussion was taking place but, perhaps, now more often on college campus theaters; that vital theater has gone to college the way jazz went to college in the 60′s (which kept that music tradition going when its popularity in the clubs was fading).

Robbie McCauley, an original cast member of “For Colored Girls,” talked about productions such as “Alice,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “Twelve Angry Jurors” put on cooperatively by Emerson College where she teaches and Roxbury Community College under the auspices of Marshall Hughes. “College students and working people got into conversations relating to race,” said McCauley who works on this project with co-panelist Melia Bensussen, also of Emerson.

Providence’s Trinity Rep was represented on this panel by Laura Kepley and D. Salem Smith. They had spearheaded a production for soldiers returning from Iraq, “Boots on the Ground,” which involved audiences after each performance in discussions about how the war has affected their community.

Conversations were so engrossing, the program didn’t stop for lunch. Groups of conference attendees gathered on the lawn at Brandeis to talk as they enjoyed sandwiches and drinks. One gathering focused on access to the theater for disabled people. People in wheelchairs want to act, as well as attend plays, so do deaf and blind people.

“It’s been an awesome opportunity to network,” exclaimed Ireta Joseph (pictured above). Energized by the day of workshops and panels on the topic, an actor with the Roxbury-based, Our Place Theater Company, said she was going away with information she can use and names of people she met who she plans to keep in touch with.

StageSource official website

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Lois Roach with tap dancer Jack Humsey of BalletROX)

167 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21 I would put the return of the Elma Lewis PLAYHOUSE IN THE PARK in the category of the “Return of the Jedi” – for these are magical performances.

To begin with, the grassy amphitheater sits like the cup of a giant hand, its rim being the small hills jeweled with rocks perfect for sitting and sprinkled with trees for shade. The stage is a good height so wherever you sit, out front on a blanket or up on a knoll, you have a clear view. It’s a charmed entertainment haven tucked into its own corner of Franklin Park. There’s easy access from the main road that crosses the park and a parking lot hidden from the Playhouse space, but very close to it.

The shows this year have been smoothly produced by Lois Roach who does the Neighborhood programming for First Night. They’re sponsored by the Franklin Park Coalition in association with ParkARTS.

On August 8, some 400 children sat entranced with the morning show put on by the young dancers of BalletRox. Judging from the masses of same color T-shirts – yellows, reds, blues – the little enthusiasts were from various daycare centers and summer camps.

The amazingly agile Ilanga served as emcee and teacher for the show; he danced across the stage like a slinky toy, to the children’s delight. Older people in the audience remember Ilanga as a G-Clef, a doo-wop group from Roxbury with several smash records in the 50′s.

A dancer as well, he appears in BalletRox’s annual Christmas-time show “Urban Nutcracker,” which, this coming December will be performed at John Hancock Hall. Just for fun, Ilanga taught the little ones a doo-wop refrain which they sang as a chorus to a few bars he did. There’s a relaxed spirit to shows in the Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park and they have a sense of fun.

The BalletRox company demonstrated the many styles Tony Williams’ dance school in Jamaica Plain has come to be known for: hip hop, modern, show biz, ballet, and tap. One of the most interesting pieces was set to “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack and done in a style the young choreographer calls modern classical. The serenity of the music appeals to her, she said.

The dancers got a beat to move to from the accomplished percussionist Abdul-Raham Salim.

That night, the lively Naheem hosted, and he too mesmerized the audience. Actor, break dance performer in years past, and known as the Voice of First Night, Naheem, at one point acknowledged the very present spirit of Elma Lewis, whose belief in the arts and the artists of the African American community in particular, prompted her to create Playhouse in the Park showcases years ago.

There was wonderfully expressive, liturgical dancing from Wyatt Jackson, whom you are familiar with from his many years portraying Joseph in “Black Nativity,” the annual Christmas production of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, the National Center of Afro American Artists. Jackson said that his residency at Bethel AME Church came about in part because its pastor the Reverend Ray Hammond had once been a dancer with the famed Philadanco Dancers of Philadelphia.

That night’s diva performance came from the marvelous singer Valerie Stephens accompanied by her excellent three piece band – Yasko Kubota on keyboard, Archie Kubota on bass and bamboo flute, and Stanley Swann on drums. These are musicians who throw themselves into backing the high drama of Ms. Stephens. She’s a bluesy jazz singer or a jazzy blues singer – you take your pick. Either way, there’s noone like her, from her seductively raucous laugh, to her pointed musical lessons in living and loving.

by Kay Bourne
168 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21 Some years back, a popular TV commercial featured a diminutive, exceedingly distraught, but feisty older woman with a big foghorn of a voice. She angrily gestured at a fast food hamburger, so small in size, that the bun completely hid the meat patty. “Where’s the beef?” was her beef. “Where’s the beef?”

The “beef” returned this summer with an entertaining night of theater, “The Family Beef Feast Fest”, directed by Norton and IRNE Best Actor Award winner, Vincent Ernest Siders and presented by his TYG Productions at the Boston Playwrights Theater. The festival has concluded but Siders’ promise to return with more plays next summer.

Good times at a family barbeque can go up in flames over matters as small as who gets the one remaining hamburger. That’s the metaphor to keep in mind.

Family discord was dished up through the four plays and two indie films, all but one, by local writers and filmmakers. Siders in the guise of an Island chef, Grand Pummy (short for Pumpkinhead) introduced the production and came on stage several times along the way to see how we were digesting the menu. As the strong applause indicated, it went down very well!

Frank Shefton’s clever “The Place We Met” set the tone. A story of how a 20-year marriage breaks up (as the fire engine sirens wail off stage) is very funny for the audience, if not for the couple arguing at the little bar where they first met. Siders was perfect as the philandering hubby too late with his apologies, while Pamela Lambert‘s sinned-against wife who, yes, does go a mite far in her indignation, was done with the exactly right measure of outrage and hurt. What fun to watch two excellent actors duke it out.

Witnessing the flare up of husband and wife is a waitress, wonderfully played by the rubber-faced Kaili Turner , who has her own tale of domestic woe to relate. She’s pregnant by her sister’s boyfriend. If that’s not an Uh-oh! What is?

This intense dramatic monologue by Daniel John, a Canadian transplant to the Boston area, was then outdone in the category of outrageous domestic behavior by the playwright himself who also had “I’m Still His Mother” on the menu. This piece was brilliantly executed by Pamela Lambert as Mom, a more than willing partner in an incestuous relationship with her 20 year old son. (John, by the way, teaches “intuitive gardening” for Brookline Adult Education).

These dramatic portraits could have had the audience morosely wanting to stick themselves with a barbeque spit but for the fact they are so humorously written and wittily performed (without losing their bite). Congratulations to director Siders who obviously advised the actors well on balancing edginess with humor.

The plays concluded with a howl of a one-act, “The Man Who Could Not Stop Crying,” by Murray Schiesgal (screenplay for “Tootsie”). A very successful businessman now in his early 60′s has a bad case of PMS or something like that, which sets him to crying at the least little thing. Anything and everything initiates torrents of tears from stories in the newspaper to classical music on the radio.

The louder the overly sensitive Italian American sobs and the harder he tries to hold back the floodgates, the funnier the situation becomes for the audience. Stephanie Gallagher is fine as the wife who loves her husband deeply but has had it up to here with his crying jags. But the show is really Jeff Gill’s who plays the weeping executive with gusto. A regular with Akiba Abaka’s Up You Mighty Race Theater Company and Jacqui Parker’s Our Place Theater, Gill here gets a chance to move on from the hateful Caucasian roles he so often plays, to show an enormous gift for comedic acting.

One of the films was another monologue from Daniel John, this time portraying the angst of a “poor little rich girl” made to feel totally incompetent by her Dad. The other film brought the program to a conclusion with its opening scenes from John Adekoje’s “Street Soldiers” about Cape Verdean American street kids in Dorchester looking for a better way to live than drugs and violence.

by Astrid Marroquin
169 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21 Intense, stiff, sentimental, and predictable. These are some words to describe yet another dance movie that has come out this year. Written by Duane G. Adler and Melissa Rosenburg, and directed by choreographer Anne Fletcher, STEP UP is suspiciously reminiscent of other dance movies such as Save the Last Dance, Take the Lead and Dirty Dancing, but it doesn’t do it quite so well.

Set in the streets of Baltimore, Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) and his not so smart friends decide that trashing private property in the other side of the tracks’ school for performing arts is fun, until security catches them in the act. While the others manage to flee, Tyler gets caught and ends up having to serve community service time by cleaning up the mess he made in the school auditorium, and so begins the story.

Like all good formula pieces, Step Up follows the romantic teen genre to a tee. We watch as Tyler stumbles upon the beautiful, privileged dancer Nora played by Jenna Dewan, who, in a twist of fate, ends up choosing Tyler as her dance partner for her important graduation showcase, after auditioning many others who were just not good enough. The two spend the movie getting comfortable with one another or so you would hope and the tension rises as we get closer and closer to the big dance. There really is no need to go in to the rest of the plot, you know the drill.

The biggest upset in this movie was how little we saw the talents of Mario, who when on screen was a pleasure to watch. In addition, one actress who stood out, but was not seen as much, is Drew Sidora. Sidora, who also appeared in White Chicks and Never Die Alone, was thrilled about this role.

In an interview with Drew Sidora, she jokes about how she learned to sing through vocal lessons and practice after being turned down from a record producer. “I would sing around the house and my voice wasn’t always great…” Sidora laughs. Sidora shows promise as a singer and you can expect to see a CD from her in early 2007. When asked what advice she would give to up and coming actresses, she said “work hard because you never know who is watching.” Well, I will be watching to see what she has coming down the road, because she is someone to look out for.

As for the others, at times they were difficult to watch, with little chemistry although I could see that they show some promise. Hopefully we will see them in new and different roles that don’t include big dance numbers.

by Lisa Simmons
170 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21 Ok, I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the last couple of movies I have seen. My jaded mind had only expectations of juvenile humor, inappropriate behavior and just plain overtold bathroom jokes, well, finally this summer I can actually say someone got it right. From Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; to Barnyard:The Original Party Animals to Accepted, you will actually have something to see if it starts to rain again or get unbearably hot.

Talledega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby (and yes he has two first names), tells the story of a man who was born in the back seat of his parents car while they were speeding down the highway. If you felt that Tom Cruise “felt the need for speed”, well Ricky Bobby feels it twice as bad.

This movie keeps a great pace and tells a good story about the rise and fall of a racecar driver hero who takes it all in stride even after his best friend takes his place on and off the racetrack. Will Farrell, plays Ricky Bobby with such compassion and heart that you can’t help but like him and root for him. There are some genuinely funny moments and his relationship with his pit crew, especially Michael Clarke Duncan, his crew chief (Sin City, Wrestlemania 2000). For a man who can count only to #1, Ricky Bobby gives us a bit of an education when it comes to racing cars. Click here to visit Ricky Bobby on the movie’s website.

Barnyard: The Original Party Animals was a very cute, very sweet film that felt a lot like The Lion King and all the other Disney movies that came out eight or so years ago. Refreshing, lighthearted and lesson packed, this film is for the younger set who will marvel at the talking cows and root for the underdog.

There’s not too many places where you can go wrong with this film and it’s nice to have a place where families can enjoy a film together, on the big screen, and share in that movie experience. Nickelodeon, who produced the film, knows kids and knows what movies kids will watch. So take your kids, they’ll love it and you can either watch or get some much needed rest, for at least 90 minutes. Click here to visit the Barnyard movie website.

In Accepted, rejection takes on a whole new meaning in this comedic look at the pressures of getting into college. From the writer of “Gross Pointe Blank” and “High Fidelity” Stephen Pink chose this film to make his directorial debut. A story about a young man played by Justin Long (Herbie Unloaded) who gets rejected from every college he applies to and then sets up the ultimate lie. He opens his own university with the help of a few friends. (Columbus Short, Jonah Hill, and Maria Thayer) who are in the same boat, without the same paddle and up the same creek.

As the story unfolds, the skepticism with which you start the film slowly slips away and you find yourself not only believing that this could actually happen but routing for Bartelbey “B.” Gaines as he overcomes the obstacles and pressures of running a university that went from four students to four hundred in one day. It was a computer glitch! (Technology!). From misfits to surefits, this film makes you feel good and has you looking back on your college experience a bit nostalgically. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of the courses they had to choose from. Click the ACCEPTED poster above to go to its official website.

Mark your calendars for Saturday, OCTOBER 14, 2006, 6-10pm.

A TASTE OF FILM fundraiser, to benefit The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc.

To be held at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury, MA

Come and sample food from Boston restaurants while you get a taste of the 15 films that The Color of Film has funded so far with its MINI-GRANT AWARD. Meet the grant-winning filmmakers and see their winning films.

Proceeds to benefit The Color of Film’s MINI-GRANT Program, which awards grants of $500 – $1,500, TCOF’s monthly filmscreening series at The Boston Public Library – Copley Square, and its annual filmscreening special events. More info to come!

172 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21 $25 “RADIO GOLF” TICKETS TO CELEBRATE HUNTINGTON’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON. “Radio Golf” is the final work in August Wilson’s ten-play cycle that chronicles African-American life in the United States during the 20th century.

Artistic Director Nicholas Martin said the special one-day-only $25 ticket price was created to celebrate the opening of the Huntington’s 25th anniversary season, and to encourage a wider spectrum of patrons to see and enjoy the play. “Radio Golf” will be at The Huntington Theatre from September 8 until October 15.

The Huntington’s $25 offer includes all “Radio Golf” tickets sold on August 17, with a six-ticket limit per buyer. Special activities will take place such as a 25th Anniversary gift bag for the first 25 people in line and refreshments will be available at the Theatre’s Box Office, located at 264 Huntington Avenue that morning when tickets go on sale there, exclusively, at 9am. Tickets also available online or by phone.

Tickets purchased after August 17 range from $30 to $75 For details, call the Huntington Box Office at 617-266-0800 or see their website.

You are also invited to A TRIBUTE TO AUGUST WILSON — One Night Only! on September 11, at 7:30pm at Roxbury Community College’s Media Arts Building.

This tribute, sponsored by The Huntington Theatre Company and Roxbury Community College will feature stories and remembrances from Constanza Romero, August Wilson’s widow and long-time collaborator, and “Radio Golf” Director Kenny Leon (who directed the Broadway smash revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” and the soon-to-be-released ABC-TV movie with Phylicia Rashad, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Audra McDonald) as well as scenes and monologues from Wilson’s plays, done by professional actors. Purchase RADIO GOLF tickets online

by Caldwell Titcomb
173 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21 Award-winning actor and director Harold Scott died of natural causes at his home in Newark, NJ on July 16, 2006. He was 70.

In 1957, he graduated from Harvard, where he took on seventeen roles of amazing range and was, by common consent, the finest actor around. As a senior, he appeared in the American premiere of Genet’s “Deathwatch,” and on reprising his role in New York a few months later, won an Obie award for his “distinguished performance.”

In 1958, a professional production of “King Lear” was mounted for him in Boston, so at the age of 22 he played the octogenarian monarch to great acclaim. Later he would portray Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Othello, Brutus, Ariel, Hotspur, Puck, and Claudius. In New York he originated roles by Edward Albee and Arthur Miller, and in 1967 won plaudits starring in the American premiere of two plays by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.

Starting in 1966, he increasingly moved into directing. As a visiting director at Harvard and Brandeis in the early 1970′s, he staged plays by Beckett, Pinter, Kopit, and Tennessee Williams. The New England Theatre Conference gave him a special award in 1972, citing him as an “eminent Black artist: for brilliance as an actor, and sensitivity and imagination as a director, and particularly for his unselfish and dedicated efforts as a teacher working with young people in educational institutions throughout the country.”

In 1972, he began a two-year stint as artistic director of the Cincinnati Playhouse, thus becoming the first Black person to head a major regional theater. During the summers of 1970-76 he was a resident director at the Eugene O’Neill Center in Connecticut, and throughout the 1980′s at the Peterborough Players in New Hampshire. His 25th-anniversary production of “A Raisin in the Sun” won several awards and was later telecast by PBS. Between 1981 and 2000, he staged sixteen productions for the Crossroads Theatre Company in New Jersey, and in 1995 won the Lloyd Richards Director’s Award “for his profound contribution to Black Theatre.”

From 1982 until his retirement in 2002, he was a professor and head of the graduate directing program at Rutgers University. His final assignment came this spring when he staged Dael Orlandersmith’s Pulitzer finalist, “Yellowman,” at the Cincinnati Playhouse, the theater he had once headed.

144 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #21 Our second shipment of The Official ONE LOVE dvd’s and cd’s are in and available for sale!! Below are comments from audience members at The Color of Film’s Official ONE LOVE dvd & cd RELEASE PARTY in March at RCC, where we had the co-star of the movie, CHERINE ANDERSON as our special guest:

“Fantastic. I loved it.” “…Thank you for opening that movie to the Boston community. It was REALLY good! Hopefully, more quality movies like that will come out of Jamaica and marketed abroad…”

“…a complete experience to come to a public setting and see a Black love story that ends on a positive note with such talented young people…” “…Better than The Harder They Come…”

“It was really an immense pleasure to attend the ONE LOVE event. I enjoyed watching a bunch of our young, Black people show-casing their talents. Also, I enjoyed the movie, including the young woman from Jamaica who played the lead role…She was wonderful…” “…Proud to be a Jamaican tonight.”

The Official ONE LOVE dvd and cd are the first of many quality, independent films and products available to you, through TCOF. The ONE LOVE dvd is $20 and the soundtrack is $16 by emailing an order to robin@coloroffilm.com or visiting The Color of Film website . Order ONE LOVE dvd and cd here

D.C.’s Empowering The Children conferences are for empowering adults, teens and children against sexual abuse through free community conferences featuring arts and educational workshops. The next two Empowering events are scheduled for: Sat, AUGUST 19, noon – 3pm Empowering Teens & Children Against Abuse, Conference #14, at The New Fellowship Baptist Church, 616 Blue Hill Avenue, Dorchester. Surviving Sexual Abuse Conference #15 (for adults) will be held November 4, noon – 3pm at Codman Square Health Center. For further information, please contact Debbie Chambers at 617- 298-1102 or dcisme65@msn.com.

“Unity in the Community free Gospel Concert And Rally Against Violence” is this Saturday, AUGUST 19, at 7pm at the Faith Pentecostal Church, 301 Harvard Street, Dorchester. Featuring:
* Boston Teen Challenge Gospel Choir,
* Judge Milton L. Wright,
* The St. Mark Gospel Choir,
* Rev. E.I. Osborne,
* Cynthia Fulton,
* Voices of Delverance Gospel Choir,
directed by Leah Anderson and Esther Osborne, with Special Guest Star, Music Legend, Betty Wright (known as the Clean Up Woman, now she is a Grammy Award winner, Master Vocal Coach to the Stars, Co-Star of the MTV TV Series “Making the Band”, and a Leader in God’s Army, helping for Christ.)

Support community theatre as Red Inque Co. presents the premiere of MADAME on Sat., AUGUST 19, 2pm and 8:45pm, free, at Shelby Mission Hill Park, on Tremont Street, near the Roxbury Crossing T-stop. Produced and written by Tyesha Natalie and co-produced by Sky of TR.U.E. Magazine, directed by Lauren Mills, based on the novel: On Her Own Ground. For info contact 617- 362-6254.

Due to bad weather on June 24, the HARLEM BOOK FAIR ROXBURY is re-scheduled for this Sunday, AUGUST 20, 12 – 6pm at Roxbury Community College. Talk with authors, purchase books and be around other people who love reading books. For further info call Marjorie Hicks at Roxbury Action Program, 617-442-4400.

(ähts): The Boston Arts Festival 2006 will take place SEPTEMBER 9 and 10 at Christopher Columbus Park on Boston’s waterfront, adjacent to the historic North End. The festival is a custom-built artists’ village in the center of the park, with Boston’s best visual artists. A waterfront stage plays host to Boston performing artists providing a preview of either an upcoming season or show. Participatory arts and family-friendly activities will also be programmed. For information, please call 617-635-3245.

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