“RAISIN IN THE SUN” SWEEPS EMACT AWARDS
by Kay Bourne
Dosha Beard as Lena Younger (Best Actress) and Steven M. Key as Walter Younger (Best Actor)
The Footlight Club‘s production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A RAISIN IN THE SUN” took most of the major awards at the 54th Annual Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters’ (EMACT) Drama Award Festival” last weekend, including ‘Best Production’. The competition took place for three days, June 8 – 10 in the Marion D. Campbell Performing Arts Center at the Groton School in Groton with nine companies vying for awards.
This is the first play about the Black Experience to have entered the prestigious competition. “I’m unaware of a play with specifically African American subject matter having previously been entered,” said Douglas Cooper, EMACT president, although he can only vouch for the 20 years he’s been associated with the organization. Set on Chicago’s South Side, sometime in the decades following World War II until the late Sixties “A RAISIN IN THE SUN” relates the story of the Younger family and their dreams of improving their lot in life.
The other awards that went to the drama directed by Heather Fry and produced by Sandi McDonald are ‘Best Supporting Actress’ – M. Yvonne Murphy as Berneatha Younger, ‘Best Actress’ – Dosha Beard as Lena Younger, ‘Best Actor’ – Steven M. Key as Walter Younger, ‘Best Performance Values’, ‘Best Ensemble’, ‘The John J. Goodwill Best Director Award’ – Heather Fry, and ‘The Paul J. Reale Outstanding Production Award.
As well, the production took a number of nominations: ‘Best Lighting’ – Jon Bonne, ‘Best Set Design’ – Steve Orr, ‘Best Sound Design’ – Heather Fry, ‘Best Actress’ – Daria Johnson as Ruth Younger, and ‘Best Supporting Actor’ – Nahson Rosenfeld as Travis Younger.
EMACT, which currently has a membership roster of 37 member theater companies, also has some corporate members such as Stage Source. According to the bi-laws, in order to compete, a company must have existed at least two years before joining. The judges or adjudicators are professionals in that field. This year’s trio of judges included Lynn Kremer, a director and playwright whose residences have included The Smithsonian Institute, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center and the Boston Center for the Arts and who trained in Bali; Kevin Gardner, an Equity actor, director, and teacher and broadly published author; and Spencer Watson, a roving adjudicator for The Theater Association of New York State and The Pennsylvania Association of Community Theaters.
The companies are asked to keep their shows to only an hour. That meant Heather Fry had to cut an hour or more. “I worked backwards,” said Fry, “asking myself ‘What is the essential information the audience needs to understand so they get the significance of the core and the climax of the play?’ which is about Walter becoming a man.”
One of the adjudicators especially appreciated Fry‘s perspicuous cuts. At the festival following the staging of all the competitors, when the judges give comments, that adjudicator said “I was so apprehensive when I saw that you were doing ‘RAISIN’ because it is such a tightly crafted play. I didn’t think it could be done in the allotted time. You did a wonderful job of cutting this play.”
The other competitors this year were The Hovey Players, The Lexington Players, The Burlington Players, The Theater Company of Saugus, Curtain Call in Braintree, Acme Theater Productions of Maynard, The Concord Players, and The Colonial Chorus Players of Reading. The 130 year-old Footlight Club, the oldest continuously operating community theater in the country, is located in Eliot Hall at 7 A Eliot Street in Jamaica Plain.
LOVE FOR LOVE’S SAKE
by Kay Bourne
(Johnny Lee Davenport as Dull and Khalil Flemming as Moth)
The Actors’ Shakespeare Project‘s enjoyable production of “LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST” offers a playful look at the foibles of men when it comes to their wooing flirtatious beauties or coveting personal glory.
In a story that calls for a cast of thousands, or so it seems at some frantic moments of switching wigs or genders, this marvelous staging by Benjamin Evett is masterfully handled by only six actors, three of them, by the way, African American, and one of them 12-year-old Khalil Flemming who unabashedly steals a number of the scenes he’s in. His athletic taming of an independent minded stuffed toy cobra is a laugh riot.
The Shakespearean comedy continues through June 24, downstairs at The Garage, 38 JFK Street, in the Harvard Square area of Cambridge. You can gain more info by calling 617-547-1982 and visiting The Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s website provided at the end of this article.
Recent racially mixed productions of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” on stage and in films (Kenneth Branaugh‘s 2000 movie with Nathan Lane, as example) have opted for the elegant approach. Branaugh‘s used Cole Porter music and had the gentlemen in tuxedos, for instance. And a charming version of the straight drama with some lovely incidental music was a jewel in the Huntington Theater‘s crown last season.
That’s not the case here in an uproarious production that goes for the humor of a music hall or vaudeville performance, or even in the case of cast member Johnny Lee Davenport whom the director has perform three roles – Dull, Boyet, and Don Armado – in the vein of commedia dell’ arte. A bear of a man working on a pocket hanky of a stage, Davenport is most magnificent when he takes a character to the heights of absurdity.
The earthy works, as well as the elegant for the Shakespeare play noted for its arch wit, low brow malaprop misspeakings, farcical misunderstandings, and out and out slapstick.
The basic plot finds the serious minded, yet congenial King of Navarre, having gathered three friends in his library, urge them to sign a pact that would pledge them to three years of monastical scholarship. Only Lord Berowne demurs feeling they won’t want to forgo feminine companionship for such a duration, but pressured by the king, he too signs up.
No sooner is the ink dry on the parchment when the Princess of France and her entourage of three maids of court set up camp in a nearby pasture. The excellent Marianna Bassham, Jason Bowen (he was ‘Solo’ in the recent “Six Rounds, Six Lessons” at the BCA), Sarah Newhouse, and Michael Forden Walker play all of these parts! As you can imagine the action gets wonderfully frenetic.
This outstanding production of “LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST” is just the thing for a summer’s night diversion, or a family outing with the kids – ages 10 or up would enjoy the fast moving comedy, in my estimation.
THERE’S NO BIZ LIKE SHOW BIZ
by Kay Bourne
If you’ve ever been bitten by the show biz bug, you can medicate that psychic itch very satisfactorily by taking in the new documentary “SHOW BUSINESS: THE ROAD TO BROADWAY” about the season before this one in some theaters clustered around Times Square. The film recently opened at the Kendall Square Theater in Cambridge.
In this excellently made cinematic venture, director Dori Berinstein puts you in a front row orchestra seat and pins on a V.I.P backstage pass so you are up close and intimate with the making of four Broadway musicals from auditions to Tony Awards night.
You get to hear from everyone involved in the staging of “Taboo,” “Wicked,” “Avenue Q,” and “Caroline, or Change” – and watch them do the magic they do – from director George C. Wolfe as he shows a child how to be a more convincing actor to financial backer Rosie O’Donnell who put ten million dollars of her own money into bringing the highly successful London musical about Boy George across the pond only to find more grief than cheers. Show Biz is ‘blue birds of happiness’ or ‘heartbreak hotel’, no in-betweens about it.
The masks are off. For instance, Tonya Pinkins talks candidly into the camera about her personal travails of having been a star then losing her children in a custody suit to her embittered spouse and ending up on Welfare. These are the pitiless depths and despair she prays the role of Caroline will lift her out of. She’s allowed you to know what she called on to gave such a sensational performance of the-put-upon laundress working for a White family in 50′s New Orleans.
A remarkable movie and one you can take your children ages 10 and up to, “SHOW BUSINESS: THE ROAD TO BROADWAY” is some two hours long but my! how the time flies by.
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH THIS?
© 2007 by Josiah Crowley
(a scene from CRAZY LOVE documentary)
In 1959, 21-year-old Linda Riss broke up with her boyfriend, 32-year-old Burt Pugach, after realizing he wasn’t going to leave his wife. Within months, Linda became engaged to another man. Burt stalked her, informing Linda that if he “can’t have you, no man will want you.” And hired three thugs to throw lye in her face – which took 90% of her eyesight and left her bald. After serving fourteen years in prison, Burt proposed to Linda. Since 1974, they have been married.
The makers of CRAZY LOVE, the documentary that details this strange relationship, don’t judge their subjects. Co-directors Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens don’t have to: they simply turn on the camera and let this bizarre duo talk. And talk they do! There’s footage of the married pair on decades of TV appearances, such as The Phil Donohue Show, Sally Jesse Raphael, etc.
The film has a generous amount of footage of their initial courtship since Pugach fancied himself a filmmaker, taking lots of home movies, as the successful lawyer squired the young office worker to “happening” Manhattan nightclubs – places such as The Copacabana and The Latin Quarter. We see them hob nob with Burt‘s “close” friends, crooner Johnny Mathis and B-movie actor-singer Keefe Brasselle. We watch the beautiful young Linda, who modelled herself after Liz Taylor (Linda took fistfuls of speed to keep down her weight), looking glamorous and sexy as a young gal about town.
We learn about their lives after the trial. Linda‘s fiancee “couldn’t handle” her disfigurement. After months of covering her eyes with oversized, theatrical dark sunglasses, Linda removed them, revealing her damaged eyes to her fiancee. He walked away from her (literally) that day, never to contact Linda again. She continues to wear the same type of oversized theatrical sunglasses to this day, in addition to a slew of wigs to cover her baldness. The incarcerated Pugach, who was disbarred for life, gave legal advice to fellow inmates and was paid for this. He started to send money to Linda.
Linda tried to continue a normal life. After her disfigurement, she continued to work in an office for several years, without aid of a cane or seeing-eye dog, walking to and from work every day. She even took up oil painting, while she still had some eyesight left. She tried to carry on her life “not thinking about the opportunities I lost out on”. She had a few boyfriends along the way. Eventually, Linda was overwhelmed with depression, unable to work, barely leaving her apartment, dependent on Burt‘s jailhouse earnings. At 80, Burt is still employed as a paralegal.
Shortly after his prison release, Burt contacted Linda. “Tired of being alone”, Linda began dating him. Within eight months, they were married. Burt proposed to Linda during a television appearance.
This movie follows these two unhappy people: Burt doesn’t appear sorry for ruining Linda‘s life. Linda is, at turns, vindictive and grateful toward Burt.
The film also has lots of colorful talking heads, including their mutual friends and veteran reporter Jimmy Breslin, who covered Burt‘s trial. “In all my years of reporting, Pugach is the single most psychotic individual I’ve ever seen who hasn’t been locked up for life”, states Breslin.
As well, it has a great 1950′s soundtrack, using the hit songs of their 1950′s courtship.
So what to think of Linda and Burt? Do they “deserve each other”?
“There wasn’t much happening” for her, Linda states, when Burt left prison. We watch as they argue over seemingly everything: household chores, Linda‘s smoking, what to order at their favorite Chinese restaurant in their working-class Queens neighborhood – far from the chic nightspots of 1950′s Manhattan. Keefe Brasselle went to that swanky nightclub ‘in the sky’ twenty-five years ago. And Johnny Mathis doesn’t ever come to visit.
If one were watching this elderly Jewish couple – and didn’t know their history – one might think they were just another old, cranky couple. This movie reminds the viewer that the neighbors we see every day may not be what they seem. They could be, not only the bickering, grumpy senior citizens down the street, but a couple of truly psychotic souls.
“CRAZY LOVE” is a mesmerizing portrait of mental illness, currently showing at the Kendall Square Cinema and the West Newton Cinema, in the Boston area. Crazy Love official website
13, AN UNLUCKY NUMBER?
by Lisa Simmons
“OCEAN’S 13″ is a film about the attractive George Clooney and the equally attractive Brad Pitt who get the gang together once again to avenge the almost death of their confidant who has been left in a comatose state after a massive heart attack. A bit disjointed and at times confusing, the film spends a lot of time taking us on this journey to the the actual story, a journey that is not all that exciting or interesting.
‘Ocean’s Eleven’ was a great re-make movie, great concept ,well written and executed. It had a well defined plot and a reason behind the actions of the characters. In ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ it seemd to all fall apart, there was not plot, no structure, no excitement. So, why go on to ’13′? Oh, money. Right.
At least ’13′ finds its way back from oblivion to pull together some kind of story but not nearly back, far enough. It’s not an action packed blockbuster. It’s simply a movie about some cool guys who look good in tuxedos, who know how to plan extravagant capers and get away with them.
For Don Cheadle fans, he is the same here as he has been in the last two ‘Ocean’s’ but has a bit less playing time. I suggest you go see him in Kasi Lemmons‘ new movie “TALK TO ME” which opens July 13. I think you’ll be so much more satisfied.
Saturday, JUNE 16 at 8pm is the Boston Pop’s GOSPEL NIGHT featuring the Boston Pops Gospel Choir directed by Charles Floyd with guest soloist Pastor Marvin Winans of Detroit. Tickets are $18 – $85. The Symphony Hall box office hours are M – S 10am – 6pm or call 617-266-1200 for more information or click here.
Tony Williams Dance Cente / JP School of Dance’s Annual Dance Recital is Saturday, JUNE 16 at 1:30pm at the Kresge Auditorium on MIT’s Campus. For ticket information call 617- 524-4381.
Central Boston Elders Services presents the 2nd Annual UNITED FOR ELDERS EXPO today, JUNE 15, 11am – 6:30pm at The Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, 1350 Tremont Street, Roxbury. The exposition will be a great opportunity for Boston’s elderly community and their caregivers to network and learn about a wide range of services that are currently available. It will also allow members of the elderly community to have an in-depth dialogue with their local and State Representatives concerning issues that are important to them and their caregivers. Maureen Feeney, President of the Boston City Council, will present the keynote address during the open-forum town meeting from 4-5:30 pm. Invited guests include: Governor Deval Patrick; Mayor Thomas Menino; Commissioner Eliza Greenberg, Commission on Affairs of the Elderly; Secretary Jennifer Davis Carey, Executive Office of Elder Affairs; State Senator Diane Wilkerson; Dudley Area Businesses and Dudley Main Streets; Live Music Performances by the Central Boston Elders Services choir. Free to the public.
The Boston Center of the Arts’ ANNUAL MEETING is Wednesday, JUNE 20 at 5:30pm at the BCA’s Cyclorama. They will announce exciting program innovations including Resident Theatre Companies for 2008-2011 and the 2007-08 Cultural Partners Series. Honor partners and volunteers. Enjoy a performance by the Community Music Center of Boston’s Youth Jazz Ensemble. Followed by a reception at The Beehive. All are welcome. Please RSVP to Cara Wojcik at 617-426-2924.
State Treasurer Tim Cahill*s Financial Education Division presents: The 2007 BROWN BAG LUNCH ‘FREE FINANCIAL SEMINAR’ SERIES on Thursday – JUNE 21. with guest speaker, Bridget E. Murray, Attorney at Law at the State House – Hearing Room B-1 (Next to the Ashburton Park Entrance), at 12 noon till 1pm. Learn the skills to make intentional financial decisions and put good practices into effect. Financial planning for starting a family, an employment loss/change, a divorce, or a death can make these tasks even more difficult and even more important to your future. Join us in discussing: – How to talk about money, – How to make Intentional decisions, – Financial Priorities, – Planning for the Future.All are welcome. Free, but Registration is Recommended by clicking here .
CHANGING THE PUBLIC DISCOURSE ABOUT RACE Community Change Inc.’s Brown Bag Film/Discussion presents a screening of Byron Hurt’s ‘HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES’. A riveting examination of manhood, sexism, homophobia and racism in hip-hop culture on JUNE 21, Noon-1:30PM at the Community Change Library on Racism, 14 Beacon Street Room 605, Boston. Discussion facilitated by CCI staff, Film shown promtly at Noon. Please bring your lunch. Beverages will be provided. $5 contribution requested RSVP at 617-523-0555.
Please join the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) for a benefit to help children and families affected by the New Bedford raid. On JUNE 27, at 7:30pm attend “An American Dream for New Bedford”: AN EVENING WITH JIMMY TINGLE TO BENEFIT FAMILIES AFFECTED BY THE MARCH 6 IMMIGRATION RAID. Net proceeds collected by MIRA will go to the NiÃ±os Fund. The fund is distributed by New Bedford community organizations and provides financial support to families caring for children affected by the March 6 immigration raid. For more information click here.
DEBATING OUR FUTURE. On JUNE 28, Tavis Smiley will be hosting a democratic Presidential debate live from the campus of Howard University. The Brothers of Epsilon Gamma Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the Sisters of Psi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc are hosting a Community Viewing of the debate at the Media Arts Center at Roxbury Community College, across from the Reggie Lewis Track Center. Tthere is plenty of free parking in the RCC parking lot. Preceding the debate will be a Panel discussion, moderated by Channel Five’s weekend Anchor, Ms. Pam Cross on issues relative to voters of Color in The Boston area.
The 28th Annual FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL DE JAZZ DE MONTRAEL is JUNE 28 – JULY 8 with over 300 Jazz, Soul and Blues headliners such as: Wynton Marsalis, Roy Haynes Quartet, Didier Lockwood, Sylvain Luc, John Scofield, Cesaria Evora, Antibalas featuring Femi Kuti, Manu Chao with Radio Bemba Sound System, George Thorogood, Meshell Ndegeocello, Buddy Guy, Dave Holland Quintet, Joshua Redman, Keith Jarrett, Harry Connick Jr., Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter and the Russell Malone Quartet featuring Esperanza Spalding, to name just a few! For more information click here.
THE HARLEM BOOK FAIR returns to ROXBURY, MASSACHUSETTS WITH A CELEBRATION OF BLACK LITERATURE on Saturday, JUNE 30, 12 – 6 pm at Roxbury Community College, 1234 Columbus Avenue, Roxbury. For more information contact Ms. Hicks at Roxbury Action Program (RAP) (617) 442-4400.
Join ART SALON BOSTON: an open group of artists in the Greater Boston area who meet monthly to discuss all aspects of the visual arts, poetry, music, architecture, crafts, dance, performance, theater, creative writing and share opportunities, annoucements of upcoming shows and events and information on technical resources. Next Meeting will be Sunday, JULY 8 from 10a-12pm in Jamaica Plain. For more information about the group and/or to join the listserv, send an email to Donna Dodson.
Save the Dates: AUGUST 1 – 5 for the 9th Annual ROXBURY FILM FESTIVAL, co-produced by ACT Roxbury and The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc., to be held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art, Northeastern University, Roxbury Center for Arts at Hibernian Hall and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Please check the RFF website periodically for updates.