Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82

May 28th, 2010  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report

Contents
IRNE’S SHINE LIGHT ON THEATER
UMOH RETURNS FROM BROADWAY
TRAILER PARK TOO FUNNY
PRINCE HALL HISTORY RETOLD
BHCC CHELSEA EXHIBITS MADDU
JUST WRIGHT IS JUST RIGHT!
ROBIN HOOD’S STORY BEFORE THE STORY
UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFO


IRNE’S SHINE LIGHT ON THEATER
by Kay Bourne
704 Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82 (l to r: Perkins students: Kerryne Ohlson, Minh Farrow, Leslie Gruette, Elise Hana (Helen Keller), Michelle Smith with Marshall Hughes, 3rd from the left)
Child actor SEBASTIEN LUCIEN leaped on stage, Haitian flag in tow. The winner of an IRNE for ‘Most Promising Performance by a Child Actor in a Large Theater’ for his appearance in the gospel musical “Best of Both Worlds” at A.R.T., the youngster accepted the honor with a polished grace – even treating an overflow audience at the BCA’s Cyclorama to a taste of his moon walking skills. Waving the flag denoting his heritage, the Dorchester youth exited to cheers from the theater crowd.
Lucien in particular thanked the director DIANE PAULUS, who is new to A.R.T. and who won ‘Best Director’ for “Best of Both Worlds.”
The Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) presented its 14th annual array of citations to theater artists at the Boston Center for the Arts, April 19. Traditionally held on a Monday when most theaters take a break, the event saw over 500 people from that world celebrate their peers.
The annual ‘Kenneth A. MacDonald Award for theater excellence’ went to MARSHALL HUGHES, director of visual, performing, and media arts at Roxbury Community College and co-founder, with Robbie McCauley, of the Roxbury Repertory Theater. Given to someone who believes that theater speaks to the everyday person in important ways and makes theater available to you and me, Hughes this past year directed “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” that cast children from Perkins School for the Blind. They were some of the fairies who dressed in fancy clothes sat in trees and moved across the stage (with sighted children as their minders).
The show also saw JAWEL ZIMBABWE, a 10-year-old, as Puck, one of the leading characters. Jawel made his entrance on a skateboard and went on errands for Oberon in the same way. He was nominated by the IRNE committee for a ‘Most Promising Performance by a Child Actor in a Production in a Small Theater.’

The production of August Wilson’s “Fences” at the Huntington took a number of awards, including ‘Best Director’ to KENNY LEON, whose production of the same play but starring DENZEL WASHINGTON with VIOLA DAVIS opened on Broadway at the end of April to rave reviews – one critic declared that the production is “a collective home run” for Denzel and Leon. The Huntington’s production of “Fences” also won for ‘Best Lighting,’ ‘Best Actress’ (CRYSTAL FOX), ‘Best Actor’ (JOHN BEASELY), and ‘Best Play.’
The Huntington won numerous other awards, as well, including one to playwright DAVID GRIMM for ‘Best New Play’ (“The Miracle At Naples”).
Perennial IRNE awards winner JACQUI PARKER, who now has six of them to her credit, won ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for her portrayal in PAULA VOGEL‘s musical “A Civil War Christmas” of Elizabeth Keckley, a real-life figure who was the dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln.


UMOH RETURNS FROM BROADWAY
by Kay Bourne 705 Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82
Boston’s been good to STEPHANIE UMOH. The Texas-born actress’ career took off while she was still a student at Boston Conservatory. Upon graduation, she relocated to New York and landed a major role in the revival of “Ragtime.” In her first year there, she also appeared in the prestigious Roundabout Theater‘s workshop production of “The Tin Pan Alley Rag” and some theatrical readings. In Connecticut at the Westside Theatre, she played in a theatrical version of the movie “Bonnie And Clyde” Now she returns to originate a starring role in Harvard’s A.R.T. production of a musical about the Boston Red Sox and the issue of race in major league baseball. “JOHNNY BASEBALL,” whose focus is how the infamous “Curse” came about, opened mid May. The story involves three protagonists: Johnny O’Brien, a hard luck right-hander on the 1919 Sox; Babe Ruth, the Red Sox star pitcher and out-field man who was sold to the Yankees; and Daisy Wyatt, a dazzling African American blues singer and the love of Johnny’s life.
Umoh is excited about the complexities of her character and the depth to the other figures in the story. In a recent phone conversation, she describes the situation when Johnny goes to the club where she is singing and meets Daisy as “he falls absolutely in love and pursues her. She’s more practical, feeling it’s not going to work out. He’s blind to race issues. She experiences discrimination every day of her life.”

On the plus side, Umoh notes that “my character overcomes the limits placed on her. It takes awhile but it happens.”
Originating a character is the dream of every actor. “To originate a character in a world premiere is extremely exciting,” says Umoh. “There are no preconceived ideas of who the character is supposed to be, no expectations by the audience. And you go down in history if the play comes off well.”
Thus far in a short career, Umoh, who was graduated from Boston Conservatory in 2008, has prospered. The way she handles the success she’s had, she says, is the way she looks at the prospects for a professional actor. “In our world, we have to take things one step at a time.”
She found an agent, Nicolosi & Co., which she says has been supportive of her interest in not being placed in “a Black box” but to play Black specific characters and other characters, as well. In that regard she’s played Sheila in “Hair” and was sent by her agent to try out for “The Fantastiks.”
She is grateful for the opportunities and attention she had in Boston while still a student. At SpeakEasy, she was in “Zanna Don’t!” and “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” (directed by Jacqui Parker). She also played Sarah Brown in “Ragtime” at New Repertory Theater in Watertown, the role she did in 2009 on Broadway. She was nominated for an Elliot Norton Award and an IRNE. The “Boston Globe” did a series of articles on her.
These credits on her resume make her a little more “trustworthy” to a casting director, she believes. However, she adds, the people casting for “Johnny Baseball” hadn’t realized she had acted in Boston previously.
“JOHNNY BASEBALL,” directed by DIANE PAULUS, runs through JUNE 27 at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge. For more info, you can phone 617-495-2668.
A.R.T. website


TRAILER PARK TOO FUNNY
by Joseph Crowley © 2010
706 Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82 (Clockwise From left): Mary Callanan, Kerry A. Dowling, Santina Umbach and Grant MacDermott (Photo credit: Mark L. Saperstein.)
THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL is the funniest theatrical production now running in Boston! It’s like a National Enquirer story set to music, with laughs that come so frequently, it would be worth a second viewing to see what you missed that laughter covered the first time around.
Dolly Parton once said: “It’s not cheap looking easy – or easy looking cheap”. Nor is it an easy accomplishment to put together such a hilarious show as this one. Great comic timing from an accomplished cast, clever lyrics, hilarious set, appropriately trashy costumes, fast-moving, genuinely funny book and fluid direction make this the best night out in town!
It takes a lot of smarts to portray people this dumb. And the Boston cast is in top form portraying the tawdriest – and funniest – “White trash” characters you’ll see onstage all year. From local veterans MARY CALLANAN, KERRY DOWLING and LEIGH BARRETT to Boston native/Broadway veteran DAVID BENOIT (with a glorious singing voice), to CAITLIN CROSBIE DOONAN (as Pippi, the very bad stripper and very “bad” girl), recent Emerson graduate GRANT MacBERMOTT as the glue- sniffing Duke, and current Boston Conservatory student SANTINA UMBACH as Pickles, who spends most of her life suffering from “hysterical” (in more ways than one) pregnancies. Each actor is pitch perfect – though young Umbach may, indeed, steal the show, as she walks away with so many scenes – and has at least, one or two, moments in which to shine. Each member of this cast, it must be noted, is not just a glorious comic talent, but each also has a beautiful singing voice and contains loads of presence and personality.
There are some things an acting school doesn’t teach, such as ‘How To Be A Star.’ Every actor in this cast is both a great talent, as well as a star of the first order. Any one of them could headline a show. Watching this much talent is a pleasure, especially in a show so well-directed by PAUL DAIGNEAULT, who keeps things moving swiftly. Also, the hilarious set of the trailer park must be mentioned, as well as SETH BODIE‘s cheesy costumes, the wigs and the show’s dancing. The cast’s energy, talent and top of the line professionalism – not to mention their impressive gifts as clowns, singers and actors. This is one Trailer Park you want to check out!

THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL is playing at The Roberts Studio Theatre located in The Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at The Boston Center for the Arts, at 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End until MAY 30. Ticket information: 617-933-8600.

SpeakEasy Stage Company website


PRINCE HALL HISTORY RETOLD
By Kay Bourne
708 Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82 Back Row (L-R): Wayne M. Thomas, Sr; Larry Singleton; Walter J. Taylor; John P. Ferrick; Dubois Marshall
Front Row (L-R): Mwalim (Morgan James Peters); Christopher Andrews; William Burroughs; Anthony Waldron; Xoland Green
One of the most significant figures in Boston during the Revolutionary years is seldom mentioned in school history texts. Yet his influence is felt to this very day.
The key organizer and leader of the African Lodge (the first African American Freemasonic lodge in the United States), PRINCE HALL, was a freedman who owned and ran a leather goods shop. Literate and intelligent, he was a force to be reckoned with.
His persistence to have an organization that is a brotherhood resulted in a meeting place and platform where African men could progress and prosper in a country where opportunities for them were slight and fraught with dangers.
A new play depicting Prince Hall Masonic history opened the recent internationally attended conference at African Lodge 495 in Grove Hall. This is the same jurisdiction through which PAUL LAWRENCE DUNBAR, DAVID WALKER and WILLIAM WELLES BROWN (of The Escape) were members.
“Knock and It Shall Open” by MWALIM (MJ Peters) is the second part of his ‘Among Brothers’ trilogy depicting the exploits of Prince Hall and his compatriots.
Decisively directed by NAHEEM GARCIA and well performed by a cast selected from the lodge brothers, this engrossing account made high drama of this lesser known chapter from American history. The cast was made up of CHRISTOPHER ANDREWS as Prince Hall, WILLIAM BURROUGHS as George Hancock, JOHN P. FERRICK as John Hancock, DUBOIS (Divine) MARSHALL as Benjamin Tiber, WALTER J. TAYLOR as Thomas Sanderson and LARRY SINGLETON as Boston Smith.
As the story begins, the lodge brothers are debating how best to take advantage of the split from England. The spirit of freedom is in the air. Hall busily writes petitions requesting the Continental Army to enlist free Blacks as more than menials and servants. He also petitions for an end to slavery (the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts will come a decade or so later as a direct result of a law suit entered into the courts on behalf of a slave, Elizabeth Freeman, known as Mumbet).
The solution revolves around an ancient legend.
“Knock And It Shall Open” was presented by an in-house theatrical group, Performing Artists Communicating Knowledge (P.A.C.K.) which is set up to tour to other lodges and community locations. For more info you can phone 508-566-6269 or emai ThePACK459@gmail.com.


BHCC CHELSEA EXHIBITS MADDU
By Kay Bourne
707 Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82 (Pictured: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz)
With her magnetizing paintings of fabulous Mexican women, MADDU HUACUJA lets the viewer know that she is the aesthetic daughter of Nueva Prescencia. Her larger than life portraits of women who are famously associated with social activism fall well within the movement of artists who believe that connecting with the human image in art can better your life.

“These are portraits of women I knew about but did not learn about in school,” says the Mexican born Huacuja.

On view in the circular entrance lobby of Bunker Hill Community College’s new Chelsea campus, “MEXICAN FEMAIL ARCHETYPES” Huacuja’s series of large scale oil paintings greet the constant flow of students coming and going.

Some of the women’s names may ring a bell even for those viewers not of Mexican descent – all of the women have personal and stirring stories that you can easily connect with.

The poet Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, for one, wrote in the 1600′s but her verse and essays are enthusiastically read today. For Huacuja, the work that most exemplifies the writer’s significance to women is “Respuesta a Sor Filotea,” an impassioned essay defending the author’s right and every woman’s right to think and be educated, to have a voice in public and theological debate. She is regarded as the first advocate for women’s rights in the Americas.

Other portraits in this empowering exhibit include the Virgin of Guadalupe, the dark skinned patron saint of Mexico whose banner the Mexican people carried when they fought for the independence of Mexico and to whom people set up shrines to this day. There are also a number of warrior women who fought side by side with men or had their own regiments in the War for Independence.

Visitors to the exhibit are aided in understanding the importance of each of the women through an attractively designed, free guide book.

The exhibit was created by LAURA MONTGOMERY who runs the gallery at the main campus in Charlestown. She invited Huacuja to bring the paintings to Chelsea to inaugurate the new gallery space. Also on view, in a second floor gallery are works by well known Boston African American Artists: PAUL GOODNIGHT, JENNIFER HUGHES, LOU JONES, LOLITA PARKER, Jr., L’MERCHIE FRAZIER, HAKIM RAQUIB, PEG TUITT, DANA CHANDLER, KAYIGA, and ALEX RIVEST. There is also some student art.

The shows run through June. You can travel there directly from the Bunker Hill campus on the free, regularly scheduled shuttle or go directly to 175 Hawthorne Street in Bellingham Square, which is in the center of Chelsea.


JUST WRIGHT IS JUST RIGHT!
By Lisa Simmons
709 Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82 A nice underdog love story, “JUST WRIGHT” stars QUEEN LATIFA as physical therapist Leslie Wright and COMMON as a star Basketball player Scott McKnight with the New Jersey Nets, with PAULA PATTON (Morgan, Latifa’s god-sister,) as the gold digger on a quest to become a basketball players wife.
After a chance meeting at a gas station where Scott McKnight (Common) is having trouble finding his gas tank, Leslie scores an invitation to his party and brings along Morgan, who Common of course falls for. Her beauty and appearance of sweetness and kindness wins McKnight over and soon they are engaged to be married. Although after an injury to his knee and a now questionable career in the NBA, Morgan leaves McKnight but not without first bringing in Wright to get him back in shape for the playoffs.
With a passion and deep understanding of the game of basketball from statistics to players, Leslie Wright (Queen Latifa) commands the attention of Scott McKnight (Common) and we watch their friendship grow into something more. Queen Latifa is great in this movie and it’s just really nice to see all of these African American actors in roles that reflect the aspects of life we rarely get to see in predominantly African American movies. Go see it, it’s a feel good movie and we all need that these days.

JUST WRIGHT website


ROBIN HOOD’S STORY BEFORE THE STORY
By Lisa Simmons
710 Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #82 Who doesn’t love the story from medieval times of Robin Hood taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Sounds very present day doesn’t it.? Politics aside, this beautifully shot medieval tale finds Robin (RUSSELL CROW) at the beginning of his journey as a mere archer in King Richard’s crusade to the Holy Lands. After King Richard dies in battle, Robin and a few of his fellow archers (soon to be his Merry Men) head for home.
The film is basically a prequal for the better known story of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Some scenes are reminiscent of The Gladiator (also directed by RIDLEY SCOTT) as Russell Crow leads the English in to battle against the French but the story of how he meets Maid Marion (CATE BLANCHETT) and gets to Nottingham is told in this epic. With plenty of horses, sword play, armor, and tremendous battle scenes this “part one” is a great ride.

ROBIN HOOD website


UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFO
World Music/CRASHarts presents Mali’s SALIF KEITA, June 17, 8pm at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville. Tickets are $40. For tickets and information call (617) 876-4275.
The public is invited to view “Shades of Greatness: Art Inspired by Negro Leagues Baseball,” developed by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri is on display at Northeastern University‘s Gallery 360, Curry Student Center, 360 Huntington Avenue, until JULY 23, 10am – 6pm.

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