Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1986) by August Wilson Part I and II of III How to Review Plays and Where to See Them The Don’ts of Theater Review Reviewing Theatre Writing a Theater Review: Broad Aims The Function Of Reviews And Reviewers Published reviews vary a great deal. The best daily newspapers see the reviewer’s job as to report on a more or less important public activity, the importance which – and the space given to that reporting – is often determined by such considerations as the volume of money spent upon the productions reported upon or the perceived status of the production company. Most dailies, however, offer a simpler service (in the form of a brief ‘taste test’) to the theatre goer who wants to know if the show is worth seeing. In more serious publications, a theatre critic will have a wide-ranging knowledge of drama and the theatre, definite views about what is undesirable or desirable, and a sense of the context in which the reviewed performance is taking place; he or she can take up more inclusive topics, going beyond the performance on the night to a discussion of individual artists and their development, a particular style of production, company policies, theatre finance, theatre in the community – and so on. Sample the reviewers and journals listed below. The Broad Aims Of Reviewing Two points need to be made at the beginning: Firstly, there is no one review style or structure that suits all purposes (contrary to what many of you will have had drummed into you with the VCE Drama ‘CATs’). Different kinds of plays and different kinds of productions naturally lead one to review them in different kinds of ways. It is important to respond to the particular kind of experience provoked by a performance in a particular kind of way. Secondly, reviews are often the raw material of theatre history; long after the play is out of print or its producing company has ceased to exist – and long after a particular kind of fashion has passed – the printed reviews often remain as the only record of a performance. It is therefore also important to report, as accurately as possible, the basic circumstances of the play, the production and the performance. In broad terms, your reviews should: 1)Evoke (or give an accurate impression of) the performance for someone who has not been there; 2) Convey a considered personal judgment of the quality of the experience; 3) Where there is a text which you can be reasonably expected to read, or of which you can form a sufficient impression, consider how the text wasinterpreted. Writing a Theater Review Specific Aims and Presentation 4. Specific Aims Here are some questions which you will normally need to consider: • What kind of play is it, and what is it about? It is usually necessary to provide a (very brief) summary of the main action – which does not mean telling the whole story through all its windings. • What is the style of performance? (Eg. Elaborate? Simple? Rough? Naturalistic? A mixture of styles?) As the play progresses your ability to describe style more exactly will grow. • What is the nature of the theatre experience? (Your own responses are crucial, but since theatre is a public event, you should notice how others responded, the atmosphere of the evening, the social context and allied matters. Again, these vary widely.) Remember that the purposes of the theatre are varied and so too are the expectations of audiences. • How good is it? (Be careful to try to distinguish here between the text and the performance. This is sometimes very difficult, and only a rash reviewer condemns a new play (for example) if there is a reason to suspect that the performance has done it less than justice. Cases vary: you sometimes also see brilliant performances of unworthy material.) • In thinking about any of these four questions you will need to describe aspects of the performance in detail. In other words, back up your judgment with evidence from the play and the performance. Some topics you might treat are: acting, direction, design, use of music and dance, special effects; imagery (in word and spectacle), grouping, pace and timing, atmosphere or mood. Remember that these are only examples and not in all cases appropriate. In discussing any of these you should be as precise and evocative as possible. 5. Presentation• Your reviews must be headed by the following information: title, author (and translator if appropriate), director, designer(s), company, and venue. • Length: about 1,000 words. 6. Reviewers and Journals You may like to read some examples of what professional reviewers do. Among the famous practitioners (in English) were George Bernard Shaw, Max Beerbohm, Kenneth Tynan, Mary McCarthy and Walter Kerr. Reviews of varying quality can be read in the local and national press; the Arts pages in The Australian give about as good a national summary of Australian theatre as we get at the moment, while reviews in Real Time are more diverse. 7. Assessment In assessing reviews, account is taken of your argument and critical response, your theatrical awareness and your presentation and expression. Two points to note: reviews of plays and performances are typically written in the present tense and actors, directors etc are not referred to by their first names. Practical Tips for Reviewing Theater II Step 1 Develop a system for taking notes. For some reviewers, this is a good old fashioned note-pad. Some reviewers scribble while they watch a performance, although this can distract other audience members (sit in the back if you need to do this). Some reviewers prefer to take their notes during intermissions. Step 2 Do your homework. If the production you are seeing is a revival, track down tapes, reviews, notices, and/or cast lists of the previous productions. A good reviewer will compare aspects of previous productions, without getting locked into the mindset that "It has to be that way because of the genius performance" from before. The beauty of live theatre is that it is not film. Therefore, it is not static; work is open to reinterpretation with each performance. Step 3 Fact check and check again. If you don't have a checker or editor to do this for you, be sure you spell the names of the director, cast, tech crew, producers, et al, correctly. Also doublecheck dates. Step 4 Get press-kits or information about the production from the source. If the piece is a revival and the script is available, read it before you go. Practical Tips for Reviewing Theater II Step 5 Distinguish between the material, and the way it's told. Many times reviewers will get hung up on a bad performance, and end up trashing the play when in truth, the actor the director is really the one at fault. Likewise, the opposite is many times true, a brilliant performance can shine through the worst of material. This is a fine point that is open to debate. Step 6 Distinguish between opinion and fact about the work. If an actor can't be heard past the third row, then that is a fact about the performance. Your opinion about it may then be that the actor marred the evening with their lack of technique. Step 7 Tell the truth; but also know thine audience and expectation level. If the purpose of the piece is to give press to a community center, then be aware of that expectation. Don't go in with a flaming tear-down of their operation. In more earnest or professional situations, it is the reviewer's job to give an honest assessment of the professionalism and performance level of the work. Step 8 Develop your style. Some reviewers have a flowery and erudite style. Others prefer the direct "Don't waste your time on this" approach. What makes a reviewer worth reading is not whether or not they have a huge vocabulary, or find amusing ways to trash people. Ultimately, people read reviews to learn one thing: whether or not the show is worth seeing. That's not to say if it's good or bad, although these opinions will often determine that. How you say it is often as important as what you say. Wilson’s Wanderers, Searching for Home By Ben Brantley Published: April 17, 2009 I • Great works of art often tote heavy baggage. Yet the revival of August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” a drama of indisputable greatness, feels positively airborne. Much of Bartlett Sherr’s splendid production, which opened Thursday night at the Belasco Theater, moves with the engaging ease of lively, casual conversation. • Some part of you, though, is always aware that there’s a storm whipping within and around the breezy talk, a gale-force wind that picks up and scatters people as if they were dandelion seeds. That wind is cold, uncaring history, propelling an entire population of men and women, only 50 years out of slavery, as they try to find footholds on a land that keeps shaking them loose. • Set in 1911 and the second chapter (chronologically) in Mr. Wilson’s 10-play cycle of the African-American journey through the 20th century, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” is about nothing less than the migration and dispersal of a race and culture, searching for an identity and home. At the same time this play, which takes place in a boardinghouse in the Pittsburgh neighborhood called the Hill, feels cozy, gossipy and domestic. • Its characters, embodied by one of the strongest ensembles in town, seem reassuringly knowable instead of fancy figures in an allegory. This is true even when they’re describing mystical visions involving bones walking out of the ocean. Wilson’s Wanderers, Searching for Home By Ben Brantley Published: April 17, 2009 II • An old man named Bynum Walker (Roger Robinson, in a marvelously centered performance) speaks of finding himself in a dreamland where the everyday is so magnified that sparrows are as big as eagles and then seeing, but with new eyes, the world restored to its normal proportions. That’s the scale of “Joe Turner” too. It is magically larger than life and exactly, precisely life size. So is Mr. Sher’s interpretation, which seems to take place in both a well-scrubbed, modest sitting room and a fairy-tale forest. • Though it was Mr. Wilson’s favorite among his plays — and that of many critics (including me) — “Joe Turner” was not a raging popular success in its first New York incarnation. Lacking the more obvious melodrama and sentimentality of his two Pulitzer prize winners, “Fences” (1987) and “The Piano Lesson” (1990), it opened on Broadway in 1988, squarely between those two longer-running works, and lasted for 105 performances. • It would be a shame if this production doesn’t find a wide and enthusiastic audience. It’s an (almost) unconditional pleasure to watch. (I had problems with some overly mobile scenery, but more on that later.) Unlike many of the later Wilson plays and other high-reaching American dramas of social magnitude, “Joe Turner” seamlessly blends the ordinary with the extraordinary. Wilson’s Wanderers, Searching for Home By Ben Brantley Published: April 17, 2009 III • • • • Much more than, say, O’Neill’s “Iceman Cometh,” which similarly presents an array of American dream seekers in a closed setting, “Joe Turner” keeps its symbols up its sleeves instead of wearing them like cufflinks. This play disarms its audiences with folksy chitchat and homespun comedy before it dawns on them that what they’re watching — in its subliminal sweep and symmetry — is close to epic poetry. Set in a house where residents rarely stay for more than a week or two, the play is suffused with a sense of transience — of people coming, going and briefly brushing against one another before heading in different directions. Only the house’s owner, Seth Holly(Ernie Hudson), and his wife, Bertha (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), seem at all settled. Their boarders arrive as if at a way station, bearing stories filled with far-flung place names (everyone seems to have been in at least three distant states) and descriptions of short-lived love affairs and shorter-lived jobs. “I woke up that morning and the only thing I could do was look around for my shoes,” says Jeremy Furlow (Andre Holland), a young man working on a road crew, recalling the day he discovered his woman had left him. The gorgeous, insolent Molly Cunningham (Aunjanue Ellis) arrives at Seth’s, announcing, “I ain’t looking for no home or nothing.” But you suspect she shares the sentiments of the other young female boarder, the more demure Mattie Campbell (Marsha Stephanie Blake), who says, “All my life I been looking for somebody to stop and stay with me.” In this universe of nomads, a man like Rutherford Selig (Arliss Howard) assumes an urgent importance. A white peddler who commissions Seth to make pots and pans from sheet metal, Selig is also a people finder, and he comes from a long line of men who pursued that profession. His great-grandfather transported African slaves across the ocean, and his father rounded up runaway slaves for plantation owners. Now, decades after the Emancipation Proclamation, Selig is in the business of finding black people for black people. • • • • • Wilson’s Wanderers, Searching for Home By Ben Brantley Published: April 17, 2009 IV Among his clients is Herald Loomis (the magnetic Chad L. Coleman), who shows up at Seth’s with his young daughter, Zonia (Amari Rose Leigh), and the ominous look of a man on the verge of implosion. Loomis is looking for the wife he lost 10 years ago. The story of that loss, which emerges slowly since Loomis is a man of few and reluctant words, is what gives the play its title. Loomis’s history has mournful, angry echoes of the theft of human identity that was institutionalized slavery. No wonder his baleful presence scares people. Only Bynum, the most completely realized of the shaman figures who recur in Mr. Wilson’s work, understands that Loomis’s story is that of all of the residents. They are people, as he puts it, in search of their own songs. There is little actual singing in “Joe Turner,” but it is the most deeply musical of Mr. Wilson’s plays, an ode to the unheard melodies that set the rhythms of lives. Mr. Sher, best known for the smash hit “South Pacific” (like this one, a Lincoln Center Theaterproduction), refrains from excessive instrumental embellishment. (Taj Mahal’s evocative guitar riffs between scenes are suitably subtle.) The real music is in the way people talk, and when the boarders come together for a thrillingly staged Juba session — a call-and-response dance — you see their stylized movements as an extension and exaltation of how each one speaks. The look of the show — designed by Michael Yeargan (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes) and Brian MacDevitt (lighting) — conjures the appropriate combination of the particular and the universal. Seth’s house is rendered without walls, an island floating in mottled skies strobed by lightning. One caveat, though: As in Mr. Sher’s 2006 revival of “Awake and Sing!,” this production’s scenery sometimes disappears in mid-scene. Symbolically, this makes sense. But especially in the play’s powerful conclusion it’s an effect that competes with and distracts from the performers. (Ditto for the shower of gold in the finale.) • • • • • Wilson’s Wanderers, Searching for Home By Ben Brantley Published: April 17, 2009 V That should never be allowed to happen. For the essence of this production is in its organic acting, which matches Mr. Wilson’s writing in its melding of the quotidian and the cosmic. The cast members — who also include Michael Cummings and Danai Gurira, in a compellingly austere performance — all exist with grace and ease between the limited world of their characters’ day-to-day lives and the infinite worlds within them. It is a measure of this show’s success that when Bynum speaks of seeing a “shiny man” who describes himself as “the One Who Goes Before and Shows the Way,” you accept it as matter-of-factly as Seth’s talking about the economics of making dustpans. And, yes, in both soliloquies you hear Mr. Wilson’s America lifting its voice in song. As Bynum says, “Music don’t know no certain night.” In “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” every molecule of life hums with it. JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE By August Wilson; directed by Bartlett Sherr; sets by Michael Yeargan; costumes by Catherine Zuber; lighting by Brian MacDevitt; sound by Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg; music by Taj Mahal; stage manager, Narda E. Alcorn; general manager, Adam Siegel; production manager, Jeff Hamlin. Presented by Lincoln Center Theater, under the direction of André Bishop and Bernard Gersten. At the Belasco Theater, 111 West 44th Street, Manhattan, (212) 239-6200. Through June 14. Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes. WITH: Marsha Stephanie Blake (Mattie Campbell), Chad L. Coleman (Herald Loomis), Michael Cummings (Reuben Scott), Aunjanue Ellis (Molly Cunningham), Danai Gurira (Martha Pentecost), Andre Holland (Jeremy Furlow), Arliss Howard(Rutherford Selig), Ernie Hudson (Seth Holly), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Bertha Holly), Amari Rose Leigh (Zonia Loomis) and Roger Robinson (Bynum Walker). Rich Review Review/Theater; Panoramic History Of Blacks in America In Wilson's 'Joe Turner' By FRANK RICH Published: March 28, 1988 III • Yet the metaphysical cat-and-mouse game played by Bynum and Loomis is only the spine of ''Joe Turner.'' Everyone in the boardinghouse is looking, each according to his own experience, for either a lost relative or a secret of life, or both. The proprietor (Mel Winkler), the son of a free man, seeks salvation by becoming a typical American entrepreneur; he has no sympathy for a new young tenant (Bo Rucker) who arrives in Pittsburgh with rustic cotton-picking manners and crazy dreams of escaping menial labor with his guitar music. The women of the house also range across a wide spectrum - from a worldly cynic (Kimberly Scott) to a naive romantic searching for a man (Kimberleigh Aarn) to the good-hearted proprietress (L. Scott Caldwell) who believes that laughter is the best way ''to know you're alive.'' • By throwing such varied individuals together, Mr. Wilson creates a kaleidoscopic pattern of emotional relationships, including some tender, funny and sexy courtships sparked by the endearingly boisterous Mr. Rucker. But each character also has a distinct relationship to the black past, just as each has a different perspective on the white urban present. It's only when all the boardinghouse residents spontaneously break into an African ''juba,'' singing and dancing at a Sunday fried-chicken dinner, that the extended family of ''Joe Turner'' finds a degree of unity and peace. As Bynum says to anyone who will listen, each man must find his own song if he is to be free. Loomis, the sole character who fails to join in the juba, must find his song if he is to reconnect to life and overthrow the psychic burden of his years of slavery. Only then will Joe Turner - the play's symbol of white oppression as well as the subject of the W. C. Handy blues song that gave it its title - be truly gone. Review/Theater; Panoramic History Of Blacks in America In Wilson's 'Joe Turner' By FRANK RICH Published: March 28, 1988 I • August Wilson continues to rewrite the history of the American theater by bringing the history of black America - and with it the history of white America - to the stage. In ''Joe Turner's Come and Gone,'' Mr. Wilson's third play to reach New York, that history unfolds with the same panoramic sweep that marked ''Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'' and ''Fences.'' As the new play's characters hang out in the kitchen and parlor of a black boardinghouse in the Pittsburgh of 1911, they retrace their long hard roads of migration from the sharecropping South to the industrialized North, and those tales again hum with the spellbinding verbal poetry of the blues. Whether a lost young woman is remembering how her mother died laboring in the peach orchards or a bitter man named Herald Loomis (Delroy Lindo) is recounting his seven years of illegal bondage to the Mississippi bounty hunter Joe Turner, Mr. Wilson gives haunting voice to the souls of the American dispossessed. • But to understand just why the play at the Barrymore may be Mr. Wilson's most profound and theatrically adventurous telling of his story to date, it is essential to grasp what the characters do not say - to decipher the history that is dramatized in images and actions beyond the reach of logical narrative. In ''Joe Turner,'' there are moments when otherwise voluble men reach a complete impasse with language, finding themselves struck dumb by traumatizing thoughts and memories that they simply ''ain't got the words to tell.'' And there are times when the play's events also leap wildly off the track of identifiable reality. Late in Act I, Herald Loomis becomes so possessed by a fantastic vision - of bones walking across an ocean - that he collapses to the ground in a cyclonic paroxysm of spiritual torment and, to the horror of his fellow boarders, scuttles epileptically across the floor on his back, unable to recover his footing and stand up. Review/Theater; Panoramic History Of Blacks in America In Wilson's 'Joe Turner' By FRANK RICH Published: March 28, 1988 III • Yet the metaphysical cat-and-mouse game played by Bynum and Loomis is only the spine of ''Joe Turner.'' Everyone in the boardinghouse is looking, each according to his own experience, for either a lost relative or a secret of life, or both. The proprietor (Mel Winkler), the son of a free man, seeks salvation by becoming a typical American entrepreneur; he has no sympathy for a new young tenant (Bo Rucker) who arrives in Pittsburgh with rustic cotton-picking manners and crazy dreams of escaping menial labor with his guitar music. The women of the house also range across a wide spectrum - from a worldly cynic (Kimberly Scott) to a naive romantic searching for a man (Kimberleigh Aarn) to the good-hearted proprietress (L. Scott Caldwell) who believes that laughter is the best way ''to know you're alive.'' • By throwing such varied individuals together, Mr. Wilson creates a kaleidoscopic pattern of emotional relationships, including some tender, funny and sexy courtships sparked by the endearingly boisterous Mr. Rucker. But each character also has a distinct relationship to the black past, just as each has a different perspective on the white urban present. It's only when all the boardinghouse residents spontaneously break into an African ''juba,'' singing and dancing at a Sunday fried-chicken dinner, that the extended family of ''Joe Turner'' finds a degree of unity and peace. As Bynum says to anyone who will listen, each man must find his own song if he is to be free. Loomis, the sole character who fails to join in the juba, must find his song if he is to reconnect to life and overthrow the psychic burden of his years of slavery. Only then will Joe Turner - the play's symbol of white oppression as well as the subject of the W. C. Handy blues song that gave it its title - be truly gone. Review/Theater; Panoramic History Of Blacks in America In Wilson's 'Joe Turner' By FRANK RICH Published: March 28, 1988 IV • As usual with Mr. Wilson, the play overstates its thematic exposition in an overlong first act. There are some other infelicities, too, most notably the thin characterization of a pair of children. While one wishes that the director, Lloyd Richards, had addressed these flaws with more tough-mindedness during the two years of refinement that followed the play's premiere at the Yale Repertory Theater, the production is in every other way a tribute to its extended development process in resident theaters around the country. The first-rate cast, which also includes Raynor Scheine as a benign white river rat and Angela Bassett as a fervent convert to the white god that failed her ancestors, forms a supple, harmonic ensemble. Mr. Richards's staging is equally conversant with scenes of romantic flirtation, rending tableaux of divided families and galvanic climaxes in which the past erupts in a frenzy of exorcism. • The oblique, symbiotic relationship between Mr. Hall's otherworldly Bynum and Mr. Lindo's Loomis is particularly impressive. The two men's subliminal, often unspoken connection emerges like a magnetic force whenever they are onstage together. Loomis, we're told, was in happier days the deacon of the ''Abundant Light'' church. Under Mr. Hall's subtle psychological prodding and healing, Mr. Lindo gradually metamorphoses from a man whose opaque, defeated blackness signals the extinction of that light into a truly luminous ''shining man,'' bathing the entire theater in the abundant ecstasy of his liberation. The sight is indescribably moving. An American writer in the deepest sense, August Wilson has once again shown us how in another man's freedom we find our own. THE CLASH OF CULTURES - JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE, by August Wilson; directed by Lloyd Richards; scenery by Scott Bradley; costumes by Pamela Peterson; lighting by Michael Giannitti; music direction by Dwight Andrews; production stage manager, Karen L. Carpenter; associate producers, Jeffrey Steiner, Kery Davis and Charles Grantham. Presented by Elliot Martin and Vy Higginsen/Ken Wydro in association with the Yale Repertory Theater. At the Ethel Barrymore Theater, 243 West 47th Street. Seth Holly...Mel Winkler Bertha Holly...L. Scott Caldwell Bynum Walker...Ed Hall Rutherford Selig...Raynor Scheine Jeremy Furlow...Bo Rucker Herald Loomis...Delroy Lindo Zonia Loomis...Jamila Perry Mattie Campbell...Kimberleigh Aarn Reuben Mercer...Richard Parnell Habersham Molly Cunningham...Kimberly Scott Martha Pentecost...Angela Bassett Review/Theater; Panoramic History Of Blacks in America In Wilson's 'Joe Turner' By FRANK RICH Published: March 28, 1988 II • These are occasions of true mystery and high drama, and they take Mr. Wilson's characters and writing to a dizzying place they haven't been before. That place is both literally and figuratively Africa. Though on its surface a familiar American tale about new arrivals in the big city searching for jobs, lost relatives, adventure and love, ''Joe Turner's Come and Gone'' is most of all about a search for identity into a dark and distant past. That search leads the black characters back across the ocean where so many of their ancestors died in passage to slavery - and it sends Mr. Wilson's own writing in search of its cultural roots. As the occupants of the Pittsburgh boardinghouse are partly assimilated into white America and partly in thrall to a collective African unconscious, so Mr. Wilson's play is a mixture of the well-made naturalistic boardinghouse drama and the mystical, non-Western theater of ritual and metaphor. In ''Joe Turner,'' the clash between the American and the African shakes white and black theatergoers as violently as it has shaken the history we've all shared. • To achieve his sophisticated end, Mr. Wilson has constructed an irresistible premise. ''Joe Turner'' begins when the bizarre Loomis, imposing and intense in Mr. Lindo's riveting performance, comes knocking fiercely at the boardinghouse door with his delicate 11-yearold daughter (Jamila Perry) incongruously in tow. With his years of servitude to Joe Turner at last behind him, Loomis is searching for the wife who deserted him at the start of his captivity a decade earlier. But Loomis is a ''wild-eyed, mean-looking'' man who looks as if he ''killed somebody gambling over a quarter''; he's so pitch-black in mood and dress that there must be more to his story. Bynum Walker (Ed Hall), an eccentric fellow boarder with a penchant for clairvoyance and other forms of old-country voodoo, becomes obsessed with the strange intruder, intent on linking Loomis somehow to the supernatural ''shining man'' who haunts his own search for the ''secret of life.'' Cycle History: Wilson Rights History: Herald’s Quest and the mission of the Pittsburgh Cycle “Well, I don’t know what impact its going to have. I certainly hope it has one. At least you’ll have my idea of a dramatic history of black Americans. The fact is we have not been writing long. We’re relatively knew to this, We don’t have a large body of literature that has been developed by blacks, because at one time it was a crime to teach blacks to read and write. Europeans have been writing stuff down for hundreds of years. Blacks, coming from an oral tradition, didn’t see the necessity to write it down. But still it’s something that is relatively new to us. I think there are questions of aesthetics and questions of exactly how writers can contribute to the development of the culture that need to be addressed. This is our culture, how can we contribute? How can we develop it?” “Blacks in America need to re-examine their time spent here to see the choices that were made as a people. I’m not saying the right choices have always been made. That’s part of my interest in history—to say ‘let’s look at this thing again and see where we’ve come from and how we’ve gotten where we are now.’ I think if you know that, it helps to determine how to proceed in the future.” The Great Migration When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed less than 8 percent of the African-American population lived in the Northeast or Midwest. During the Exodus of 1879, an estimated twenty thousand Afro-Americans migrated from southern states to Kansas. Ever since the Civil War, former slaves had been moving west, particularly to Kansas, where, encouraged by promoters like Benjamin ("Pap") Singleton, a number of black colonies had been established. These early black migrants fared reasonably well. Then, in 1879, the slow westward stream became a flash flood. Advertising by the railroads and land promoters helped encourage the Exodus, but worsening conditions for blacks in the South played a larger part. With the end of Reconstruction, white supremacists had regained power, causing some to fear that slavery might be reestablished. A sense of impending doom, combined with an idyllic picture of life in the West, evolved into a millenarian vision of Kansas as the new Promised Land. During the spring of 1879, hundreds and then thousands of black families from all over the South joined the Kansas Fever Exodus. Most of the "Exodusters" managed to reach Kansas, but their huge numbers and relative penury overwhelmed the resources of the various charitable organizations set up to assist them. Few had enough money to start farming; most had to turn to wage labor, and some became destitute. Public attitudes toward them hardened. By 1880 the Exodus had ended. News of the first Exodusters' problems, the growing efforts by Kansans to discourage further immigration, and the difficulties of winter travel all broke the momentum. Kansas's black population continued to grow, but slowly. In 1880, southern Democrats in Congress produced a committee report blaming the migration on enticement by Republicans and promoters. But it seems clear that, whatever the attractions of the West, the Exodus of 1879 was primarily a desperate reaction to the economic and political repression faced by Afro-Americans in the South. Even by 1900, approximately 90 percent of all African- Americans still resided in the South. However, migration from the South has long been a significant feature of black history. An early exodus from the South occurred between 1879 and 1881, when about 60,000 African-Americans moved into Kansas and others settled in the Oklahoma Indian Territories in search of social and economic freedom. In the early decades of the twentieth century, movement of blacks to the North increased tremendously. The reasons for this "Great Migration," as it came to be called, are complex. Thousands of African-Americans left the South to escape sharecropping, worsening economic conditions, and the lynch mob. They sought higher wages, better homes, and political rights. The Great Migration: A Timeline The Great Migration: A Map The Great Migration Characters in Movement and in Search of Identity through Reconnection “But this migration actually dispersed many African Americans because it removed them from a distinctly African American culture already present in the South.” “The blood and bones of two hundred and fifty years of our ancestors buried in the South, and we came North. I think if we’d stayed in the South and continued to empower ourselves, in terms of acquiring land—we already had acres of farm land that we owned—we’d have ten black senators in the United States. We’d be represented. We’d be a more culturally secure and culturally selfsufficient people.” Henry Louis Gates Jr. calls the subject of Joe Turner’s come and Gone, “the sense of cultural loss that accompanied the “Great Migration” of rural Southern blacks to the urbanized North, where they believed a better life awaited them. Identity Christianity vs. African Retentions “First our condition can always be improved. If you’re not here, you’re in a museum somewhere. The condition needs improvement. But spiritually, the Christian church has been important for us; and in some instances it has also failed us. I think we need to face [….] Let’s look at Loomis. Here’s a man who’s 31 years old which means he’s born in 1880. By the time you’re a little boy, seven years old, the first thing you discover if your daddy with the mule over there working the land. This is who you are, You’re not sent to school, you don’t learn anything about reading or writing, whatever you learn you learn from your daddy. There’s a place called Africa? Did people tell you that? Does your father even know that, when he’s out there working the land in the 1880s? You don’t know how big the country is, you don’t know anything about the United States, anything about Europe, anything about Africa. You don’t know anything about who you are. You don’t even know anything about slavery! [….] Loomis just doesn’t know who he is. So when he witnesses the bones rise up out of the water and take on flesh and they’re Black just like him, he is in effect witnessing himself being born. He understands then that his existence is a manifest act of the Creator. Therefore he is filled with God’s Majesty. Since he is of God, then he must be filled with His majesty. So that’s when he says, “Jesus? No. no! I don’t need anyone to bleed for me. I can bleed for myself.” [….] Self definition is self-determinaion. It’s a very important thing. You must define yourself.” “Identity means understanding your political history as well as your social history. It means understanding you come from a long line of people who were slaves [….] I think that Bynum is simply saying that understanding and knowing who you are and also having that political understanding, that political awareness, as well as that social awareness as an African, is in essence your song. You in fact need that, and you must not let anyone take that away from you.” “I set the play in 1911 to take advantage of some of the African retentions of the characters. The mysticism is a very large part of their world. My idea is that somewhere, somewhere in the course of the play, the Audience will discover that these are African People. Their Black Americans, but their world view is African.” Wilson’s 4 B’s Blues “I think that the music contains a cultural response of black Americans to the world they find themselves in. Blues is the best literature we have. If you look at the singers, they actually follow a long line all the way back to Africa, and various other parts of the world. They are carriers of culture, carriers of ideas—like the troubadours in Europe. Except in American society they were not valued, except among black folks who understood. I’ve always thought of them as sacred because of the sacred tasks they took upon themselves—to disseminate this information and carry these cultural values of the people. And I found that white America would very often abuse them. I don’t think that was without purpose, in the sense that blues and music have always been at the forefront in the development of the character and the consciousness of black America., and people have senselessly stopped or destroyed that. Then you’re taking away from the people their self-definition—in essence, their self-determination” “blues provides a mediational site where the contradictions between the lived and recorded experiences of African-Americans might be resolved. The story of Joe turner’s chain gang is a case in point. Although the chain gang effected the personal lives of many African Americans, traditional histories of the United States make little or no mention of the phenomenon; historians have in effect written this experience out of existence. At the turn of the century however, a group of African American women musicaly documented the effect of the chain gang on their lives: ‘They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone…..Hot my man and gone.” By singing the blues, these woman became their own cultural historians and moved from an absent to an always present subject position.” Romare Bearden “Mill Hand’s Lunch Box” In the fall of 1977, Wilson came across the work of Romare Bearden. As he thumbed through Bearden’s series of collages “The Presence of Ritual,” he discovered his “artistic mentor” Bearden’s painting made simple what Wilson’s writing had so far only groped to formulate: Black life presented on its own terms, on such a grand scale, with all its richness and fullness, in a language that was vibrant and which, made attendant to everyday life, ennobled it, affirmed its value and exalted its presence.” I was looking at myself in ways I hadn’t though of before and have never ceased to think of sense.” Wilson was interested in the black experience that Bearden depicted, a visual world populated by conjure women, trains, guitar players, birds, masked figures, and rituals of baptisms, funerals, parades, dinners, parades. Romare Bearden Wilson was also interested in Beardsley’s mode of representation. Wilson describes his own play as having this collagist form in their structure: “In Bearden you’ve got al these pieces. There’s an eye here, a head over there, a huge oversized hand on a small body, It’s like that with me. I’ve got all these images and the point is how I put them together. The pieces are always there; it’s how I put them together, the relationship between them that counts Borges, Bynum, and Las Ruinas Circulares “I am fascinated by the way Jorge Luis Borges, the short story writer, tells a story. I’ve been trying to write a play the way he writes a story. He tells you exactly what is going to happen, even though the outcome seems improbable [….] And he proceeds to tell the story, and it seems lie it’s never going to happen, And you look up, without even knowing, and there it is.” Baraka (Black Nationalism) “Baraka’s influence has less to do with the way he writes and more with the ideas he espoused in the 1960s as a black nationalist—ideas I found vlue in and still find value in .” “If I look at the honorable Elijah Muhammad’s program, then there is this idea of self-sufficiency. The idea of doing for one’s self is the idea that drew me sympathetically towards him [….] I think Elijah Muhammed is one of the most important black men who ever lived in America. I’d put him right up there with Du Bois, because he was one who had an idea. For instance, if you look at the criteria of culture using Maulanga Ron Karanga’s criteria of mythology, history, and religion, the one thing we did not have was a mythology. We had no origin myths. Elijah Muhammad supplied that. So you could say he contributed a lot to black American culture—the muth of Yacub, etc. These are things the culture was lacking, and now they are forever a part of us.” Writing Mythology “Of course, I use history and the historical perspective. I try to keep all of the elements of culture alive in my work, and myth is certainly a part of it. Mythology, history, social organization, economics—all these things are part of culture. I make sure that each element is in some way represented—some elements more so than others—in the plays, which I think gives them a fullness and completeness, creates the impression that this is an entire world” (August Wilson, 1991) Yoruban Deities: Eshu Trickster and Divine Eshu is an orisha, and one of the most known deities of the Yoruba mythology and related New World traditions. He has a wide range of responsibilities: the protector of travelers, deity of roads, particularly crossroads, the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune, and the personification of death. Eshu is involved within the Orisa (also spelt Orisha or Orixa)-Ifá system of the Yoruba as well as in African diasporic faiths like Santeria/Lukumi and Candomble developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas, where Eshu was sometimes identified with Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Michael  or Santo Niño de Atocha, depending on the situation or location. He is often identified by the number three, and the colours red & black or white & black, and his caminos or paths (compare: avatar) are often represented carrying a cane, shepherd's crook, as well as a pipe. Eshu is a god of Chaos and Trickery, and plays frequently tempting choices for the purpose of causing maturation. He is a difficult teacher, but a good one. As an example, Eshu was walking down the road one day, wearing a hat that was red on one side and black on the other. Sometime after he departed, the villagers who had seen him began arguing about whether the stranger's hat was black or red. The villagers on one side of the road had only been capable of seeing the black side, and the villagers on the other side had only been capable of seeing the red half. They nearly fought over the argument, until Eshu came back and cleared the mystery, teaching the villagers about how one's perspective can alter a person's perception of reality, and that one can be easily fooled. In other versions of this tale, the two tribes were not stopped short of violence; they actually annihilated each other, and Eshu laughed at the result, saying "Bringing strife is my greatest joy". Shango In Yorùbá religion, Sàngó is perhaps the most popular Orisha; he is a Sky Father, god of thunder and lightning. Sango was a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third king of the Oyo Kingdom. In the Lukumí religion of the Caribbean, Shango is considered the center point of the religion as he represents the Oyo people of West Africa. All the major initiation ceremonies are based on the traditional Shango ceremony of Ancient Oyo. This ceremony survived the Middle Passage and is considered to be the most complete to have arrived on Western shores. This variation of the Yoruba initiation ceremony became the basis of all Orisha initiations in the West. The energy given from this Deity of Thunder is also a major symbol of African resistance against an enslaving European culture. He rules the color red and white; his sacred number is 6; his symbol is the oshe (doubleheaded axe), which represents swift and balanced justice. His dominance is over male sexuality and human vitality, in general. He is owner of the Bata (3 doubleheaded drums), as well as the Arts of Music, Dance and Entertainment. Shango can be deduced, in some regards, to be the essence of "strategy" (logic and passion drawn and fashioned precisely to achieve some end). Ifa An offering tray with palm-nuts • • • Ifa, god of divination, who is usually termed the God of Palm Nuts, because sixteen palm-nuts are used in the process of divination, The name Ifa apparently means something scraped or wiped off: he has the title of Gbangba (explanation, demonstration, proof). Ifa's secondary attribute is to cause fecundity: he presides at births, and women pray to him to be made fruitful; while on this account offerings are always made to him before marriage, it being considered a disgrace not to bear children. To the native mind there is no conflict of function between Ifa and Obatala, for the former causes the woman to become pregnant, while the latter forms the child in the womb, which is supposed to be a different thing altogether. Ifa first appeared on the earth at Iife, He tried to teach the inhabitants of Ife how to foretell future events, but they would not listen to him, so he left the town and wandered about the world teaching mankind. After roaming about for a long time, and indulging in a variety of amours, Ifa fixed his residence at Ado, where he planted on a rock a palm-nut, from which sixteen palm-trees grew up at once. Ifa has an attendant or companion named Odu (One who emulates), and a messenger called Opele. The bandicoot (okete) is sacred to him, because it lives chiefly upon palm-nuts. The first day of the Yoruba week is Ifa's holy day, and is called ajo awo, "day of the secret." On this day sacrifices of pigeons, fowls, and goats are made to him, and nobody can perform any business before accomplishing this duty. Oshun Ọṣhun in Yoruba mythology, is a spiritgoddess (Orisha) who reigns over love, intimacy,] beauty, wealth and diplomacy. She is worshipped also in Brazilian Candomblé Ketu, with the name spelled Oxum. She should not be confused, however, with a different Orisha of a similar name spelled "Osun," who is the protector of the Ori, or our heads and inner Orisha. Ọṣhun is beneficent and generous, and very kind. She does, however, have a horrific temper, though it is difficult to anger her. She is married to Orula but only because of a contest put up by her mother Yemaya. Ogun • In Haitian Vodun and Yoruba Mythologu, Ogun (or Ogoun, Ogun, Ogou, Ogum) presides over, fire, iron, hunting, poliics and war. He is the patron of smiths and is usually displayed with his attributes: machete or saber; rum and tobacco . He is one of the husbands Osun and friend to Eshu in Yoruba mythology. What Not to Do in Theater Review The Do’s and Don’ts of Theatre Review Know the difference between a reviewer and a critic. These two people are usually catering to two different audiences. A reviewer communicates the information that helps a person to make a decision about a particular performance. A critic engages readers on a intellectual-conversation-over-a-cup-of- Earl Grey level. Make sure you are communicating effectively. A common mistake of writers, especially new writers is to fill a page with general or flat words that really say nothing. Great, interesting, fascinating, boring, and horrible are examples of words that need to be left in the rough draft. Your theatre review needs to contain specific and meaningful content that will make an impression on your readers. Don't write Cliff's notes. A theatre review empowers the reader to make a decision. That does not mean that readers want you to motivate them to see a performance and ruin it for them before they finish your review. They don't want a minute but minute or scene by scene synopsis. They don't want you to pinpoint every highlight. They don't want you to reveal the climatic twist in the plot. Allow the work to do some work. Writers like to be regarded as brilliant wordsmiths. This often causes them to work harder than is necessary. Much writing goes into a theatre performance. Extract and quote telling lines. The tone of a play with an ambiguous title such as The Lover's Tale can be quickly established by quoting a line such as, "for God's sake Charles, who expects a summer fling to extend into the fall." Don't just focus on the roles; focus on how effective people are in their roles. More important than knowing the name of every character is knowing which characters appear to have been born for their roles and knowing which are playing roles that they are ill-fitted for. People like people. . . so introduce them. An off-stage or after performance quote from the lead actress, from the playwright or from the theatre owner can give your audience an idea about the people behind the masks and how passionate they are about their work. A stage hand or even an audience member can offer insight into how a performance ranks compared to others. Listen to more than the performance and if you hear something interesting, weave it into your theatre review. Talk to regular people in regular language. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you will make a name for yourself by writing a pretentious theatre review. Just as common users don't to be burdened with industry terms when reading an instruction manual, the average reader doesn't care to wade through all the technical terms you remember from drama class. Little Shop of Horrors In a dark little florist, in a dark little alley in downtown New York, a muse is born…The BIG, vivacious, money-making, blues-belting, man-eating, exotic, one of a kind – AUDREY II. But, be warned, her ruby lips and her sapphire skin aren’t the kind you’d want to kiss. This lady has an appetite and your flavorsome blood and crunchy bones are the next things on her menu… Welcome to Skid Row, Ladies and Gentlemen. Your stay may be long, and bloody. Little Shop of Horrors: An Unhelpful, Scathing Review Pembroke College last night opened a little shop of theatrical horrors with their take on Ashman and Menken’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. At the outset, I should say that this was not uniformly awful: the chorus composed of three street-wise, mouthy girl-things was far from terrible (in fact, there were two very good singers there); Charlie Daniels, as Audrey, showed some promise (although her vocals are in desperate need of attention); and I for one was glad to be reminded of the joyously bad rhymes, corniest of jokes and all-round charm of this musical. Furthermore, the cast and crew had introduced some ‘funnies’ of their own, which I, along with the rest of last night’s audience, enjoyed. However, my favourite part was still the bit when the set collapsed on two cast members (no injuries and no jokes). But now, with a heavy heart, I must step up to the reviewer’s plate and write some nasty, nasty things. The collapsible set is probably a good place to start. Mushnik’s eponymous flower shop seems to have been built from the painting of a child – a child, that is, with a disturbing affinity for brown at the expense of every other colour in the spectrum. Either that or some of the cast, angered by their director, had decided to stage their very own dirty protest. In which case, judging by the copiousness of the brown, the band might well have joined in; or perhaps a particularly potent vindaloo was served in Pembroke Hall on Tuesday (with ‘Yawn’ playing at the OFS, apparently poo jokes are de rigeur this sixth week). While I enjoyed the plant in its earlier forms – when it was presented as a glove puppet which Matt Thomas (Seymour) worked well – the fully grown thing was not in the least bit interesting. Plainly speaking, it was nothing more spectacular than a heap of some plastic sheets stitched together (which, incidentally, it was). ‘Feed Me’ was the most shockingly inept and mundane three minutes of theatre I think I have ever had to sit through as this dull creation was pretty much left on stage alone to open and then shut its mouth in time to the music. Seymour’s goofy dancing (not particularly funny anyway) at the end could not save what is normally a very enjoyable number. It is possibly a little unfair to single out any principal member of the cast for criticism. However, Josh Randall (director) should probably shove a large amount of diazepam up Jarred Wiehe (a very hyperactive Mushnik who seemed to froth at the mouth) ahead of tonight’s performance. My advice to Oxford theatregoers: don’t feed the plants and don’t feed the coffers of Pembroke College Music Society by turning up to see this set of horrors. Why is this a bad review? Viewers’ Critiques Little Shop Fan said: I think this is a very unprofessional review on this production. At the very least should you appreciate that there are certain constraints on holding a production in a space primarily used as a dining hall, and thus not naturally set up for any productions… The author’s attempts at humor here are also unbefitting of the supposed professionalism with which he should be approaching his reviews. His scathing report on Jarred’s performance, together with his seeming attempt to condone sodomy is both disrespectful and irrelevant. Criticizing the production in constructive fashion is of course perfectly acceptable, and as Mr. Fazan clearly did not enjoy the show, he is perfectly entitled to his opinion. However, to make personal slights at individual cast members which are largely unfounded and plain rude does not constitute a decent review. That said, having seen Mr. Fazan’s own recent performance in ‘Macbeth,’ I think he should work on his own theatrical ability before so rudely criticizing those of others. John Waters said: What passes above for a review is quite plainly Mr Fazan taking his ego for a self-pleasuring wallow in the muddy waters of cruel and unnecessary theatre criticism. Even putting aside factual errors, the general tone of this review is completely uncalled for. Suggesting that his favourite moment of the night was when actors were put in danger by some dodgy tech work is completely unfair on them and the production. To give Little Shop one star and encourage people not to go is ridiculous – there is not enough musical theatre in Oxford and tonight’s (Thursday’s) performance was full of charm, hilarity, pitch-perfect harmonies and hard-hitting musical numbers, not to mention the enthused and responsive audience packing out Pembroke Hall and proving that there is an appetite for musicals in Oxford. The technical faults from the first night were clearly ironed out as nothing was noticeable aside from the admittedly ill-chosen colour of Mushnik’s shop (although apparently fitting for the Skid Row address). In fact, Pembroke hall had been transformed into a fully-functioning theatre with a colossal stage. Particularly impressive was a fully-functioning electric dentist’s chair which (with a bit of help) emerged from underneath the set to provide the impetus for a darkly comedic musical number which had the audience in stitches. If Mr. Fazan would like to masturbate his ego any further, I suggest he pick a different and more suitable target. Little Shop is here to stay until Saturday, go and see it for yourself! 4 stars from me. Praying for Grace Not quite a 'Grace'-ful performance by Eli Matzner Arts | 3/29/05 Posted online at 4:06 AM EST on 3/29/05 You think your family is bad? In Praying for Grace, a thesis production written and directed by Zack Friedman '05 and presented at the Merrick Theater last weekend, the Weissman family gives a whole new meaning to the word "dysfunctional." The script resembles a cross between Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and David Auburn's Proof. As in Albee's masterpiece, the characters get angry early and stay that way, relentlessly waging war on each other for three hours. Meanwhile, the play's basic premise has clearly been lifted from Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winner: The dead mother, the overly irritable sister, the guilt-tripped sibling who flies to comfort the father and the use of flashbacks all invoke parallels that are difficult to ignore. The plot centers around Martin Weissman (Max Louik '05), a middle-aged father who suffers a heart attack. Paul, played by Jon Sherman '05, comes to see his father, bringing his fiancÃ©e Dana (Cassandra Waterman '05) in tow. They plan to stay at a hotel but Margot, Paul's sister, allows them to stay with her and her husband Doug (Devin Carney '06). From there, things take a turn for the worse. Paul and Margot initiate a heated conversation about Dana, and later that evening, Margot lashes out at and repeatedly insults her brother's fiancÃ©e. Meanwhile, in the hospital, Martin yells at his nurses, who have quickly grown to despise him. By the end of the show, we have seen every character yell at nearly every other character in the play. Regrettably, Praying for Grace was written with a group of thoroughly unpleasant characters. At first, only a few come off as downright malicious: Margot yells at everyone in sight for no perceivable reason, while Martin seems displeased by everything anyone says to him. Soon, though, they pull the rest of the cast down with them. Martin's outbursts cause his nurses to become harsh and spiteful, and Margot's systematic denigrations turn Dana, Paul and even Doug into her enemies. And when it seems Paul is the only character left who the audience can side with, he screams and punches his brother Ron. The conflicts Friedman has drawn up fall flat because there is no character to cheer for. In Praying for Grace, nearly every scene involves two unlikable people. When Martin unreasonably lambastes his nurse-who drops all pleasantries and lashes right back-it feels like watching a game and rooting against both teams. In Friedman's defense, the script shows that the young playwright has a good mind for writing dialogue and the ability to tell a story. He inserts gems of cleverness into the script and offers up several genuinely humorous one-liners, while numerous literary allusions and quotes blend well and bolster the action. Still, these radiant moments drown in the sea of angry, unappetizing quarrels. While the actors performed commendably, they were unable to overcome the unattractive dispositions of their characters. Specifically, Sara Friedlander '05-in the role of Margot- attempted to make her character seem human and she almost succeeded. She was still bound by the script, though, which provided her with tirades that consistently alienated the audience. Just when it seems like the play is ending with a multifaceted, meaningful speech by Dana, the action drags on. Friedman would have been wise to tie everything together earlier and, on that note, let the lights simply fade to black. Why is this a bad review? Another Reviewer’s Response • Matzner does a respectable job of summarizing Friedman’s play and does offer up a couple worthy points of critique for Friedman’s thesis: the play was in some stretches too emotional for too long, and coming in at nearly two hours and 45 minutes, a lengthy performance as well. But by and large, Matzner fails to engage with the plays primary conflicts or critically examine Friedman’s abilities as a director or writer. Matzner leaves his readers with the assertion that the play was dysfunctional and beyond some genuinely humorous one-liners, little worth your time. • Matzner comes to this conclusion from two connected thoughts: first, the plays primary figures comprised of a group of thoroughly unpleasant characters, and second, the play falls flat because there is no character to cheer for. Although both assertions are true, the characters as they are presented are relatively unlikable and there is no character to cheer. In point of fact, both points make up part of what makes Friedman’s play so interesting; the unpleasant traits that Friedman draws out in each of his characters are not simply presentations of negative character attributes but the representations of the family members psychological complexities in a time of familial crisis. That there is no easily apparent, dare I say obvious, protagonist in the play should not deter audiences or critics either. Really, it should help viewers remain more objective about the unfolding relationships that are portrayed over the course of the plays duration because we do not become caught up in any one characters struggle. In a complicated literary move on Friedman’s part, the plays family make-up becomes the protagonist, not one character that is easy to spot throughout. As a result, we can empathize with the entire family even while we might not choose to strongly identify with any individual member. Shows to Review Memphis • • • • • Memphis Currently playing Shubert Theatre 225 West 44th Street New York, NY Between Broadway and 8th Avenue 212-239-2820 This rollicking new musical is like a non-stop ball of energy. From the first notes of its electrifying opening number “Underground” right up to a rousing finale called “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Memphis delivers one energetic song after the next, with some of the best singing and dancing found on Broadway. Although the story deals with serious subjects regarding race, it’s never heavy-handed in the telling. It’s hard to imagine leaving Memphis without being lifted by its high-octane entertainment. I’m Not Rappaport • • • • • April 23-May 23 Center Playhouse 35 South St. Freehold, NJ 07728 732-462-9093 Inspired by two elderly gentlemen the author met in New York City’s Central Park, the play focuses on Nat Mayer, a cantankerous liberal, and Midge Carter, a feisty yet conservative man, who sit on the same park bench each afternoon and develop a relationship based on playful verbal sparring. The play touches on several issues, including society’s treatment of the aging, the difficulties dealing with adult children, and the dangers that lurk in urban areas. MacHomer • • • • April 30 McCarter Theatre 91 University Place Princeton NJ 08540 609.258.6500 It couldn’t be simpler: take Shakespeare’s Macbeth, turn it into a 75-minute solo show performed by one actor—and, oh yes—have all the play’s characters portrayed in the voices of over 50 characters from TV’s The Simpsons. Sounds easy, right? Well, Rick Miller (the host of the hit ABC series Just for Laughs) has been doing MacHomer for over ten years— everywhere but McCarter, so we thought it was high time. With a script that’s about 85% Shakespeare and 100% hilarious, this multimedia update “full of sound and fury” is a comic tour-de-force for fans of both high and low culture. With Homer Simpson in the title role, this Macbeth is definitely a laughing matter! West Side Story • • • • • Currently Playing Palace Theater 1564 Broadway New York, NY 10036 (212) 730-8200 More than fifty years ago, a show about New York City changed musical theatre forever. Now, it’s coming home to make history once again. From the first notes to the final breath, West Side Story is one of the most memorable musicals and greatest love stories of all time. Arthur Laurents' book remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. The score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim -a collection of standards that includes 'Tonight,' 'America,' 'Maria,' 'I Feel Pretty' and 'Somewhere' - is widely regarded as one of the best ever written. And the extraordinary, Tony-winning choreography by Jerome Robbins completely changed the language of Broadway dance. This groundbreaking new production, directed by the legendary Mr. Laurents, will offer a bold new design that builds on the show’s raw power and emotion to create a fresh experience unlike any that came before it. Don't miss this thrilling presentation of a matchless work of art. Some Plays to Review: Sylvia • April 30 – May 23 • George Street Playhouse 9 Livingston Avenue New Brunswick, NJ 08901 • 732-846-2895 • A laugh-out-loud comedy about recent empty-nesters, Kate and Greg – and Sylvia, the street-smart mutt who becomes a major bone of contention between them. Starring SNL’s Rachel Dratch (as Sylvia, the dog) with FourTime Tony Winner Boyd Gaines, Kathleen McNenny (Sight Unseen) and Stephen DeRosa from Broadway’s Hairspray, this play is a must-see for anyone who has ever counted a four-footed friend as a member of their family. The Last Fall • • • • Crossroads Theatre 7 Livingston Ave New Brunswick, NJ 08901 732 545-8100 The Drunken City • April 30 – May 22, 2010 • Union County Performing Arts Center 1601 Irving Street Rahway, NJ 07065 • http://www.alliancerep.org • Three twenty-something brides-to-be go off on the bar crawl to end all crawls and find their lives going topsy-turvy. THE DRUNKEN CITY is a wildly theatrical take on the mystique of marriage and the ever-shifting nature of love and identity in the city that never sleeps. Working • April 23-May 9, 2010 • The Attic Ensemble The Barrow Mansion 83 Wayne Street Jersey City, NJ 07302 201-413-9200 • www.atticensemble.org The hopes, dreams, joys and concerns of American workers are the focus of this extraordinary, unforgettable musical. Based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews, “Working” paints a vivid musical portrait of the men and women the world so often takes for granted. Comic Potential May 1 - 23, 2010 Bergen County Players 298 Kinderkamack Road Oradell, NJ 07649 (201) 261-4200 In the not-too-distant future, when actors and robotic “actoids” are really indistinguishable, an aspiring screenwriter gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself smitten with his almost human leading lady. Equal parts riotous farce, romantic comedy, and stinging satire, Comic Potential has something to tickle everyone’s funnybone. Complete with double-takes, pies in the face, clever wordplay, chase scenes, and the requisite happy ending, this is a play that will leave you laughing—and thinking—long after you leave the theater. Memphis • • • • • Memphis Currently playing Shubert Theatre 225 West 44th Street New York, NY Between Broadway and 8th Avenue 212-239-2820 This rollicking new musical is like a non-stop ball of energy. From the first notes of its electrifying opening number “Underground” right up to a rousing finale called “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Memphis delivers one energetic song after the next, with some of the best singing and dancing found on Broadway. Although the story deals with serious subjects regarding race, it’s never heavy-handed in the telling. It’s hard to imagine leaving Memphis without being lifted by its high-octane entertainment. I’m Not Rappaport • • • • • April 23-May 23 Center Playhouse 35 South St. Freehold, NJ 07728 732-462-9093 Inspired by two elderly gentlemen the author met in New York City’s Central Park, the play focuses on Nat Mayer, a cantankerous liberal, and Midge Carter, a feisty yet conservative man, who sit on the same park bench each afternoon and develop a relationship based on playful verbal sparring. The play touches on several issues, including society’s treatment of the aging, the difficulties dealing with adult children, and the dangers that lurk in urban areas. MacHomer • • • • April 30 McCarter Theatre 91 University Place Princeton NJ 08540 609.258.6500 It couldn’t be simpler: take Shakespeare’s Macbeth, turn it into a 75-minute solo show performed by one actor—and, oh yes—have all the play’s characters portrayed in the voices of over 50 characters from TV’s The Simpsons. Sounds easy, right? Well, Rick Miller (the host of the hit ABC series Just for Laughs) has been doing MacHomer for over ten years— everywhere but McCarter, so we thought it was high time. With a script that’s about 85% Shakespeare and 100% hilarious, this multimedia update “full of sound and fury” is a comic tour-de-force for fans of both high and low culture. With Homer Simpson in the title role, this Macbeth is definitely a laughing matter! West Side Story • • • • • Currently Playing Palace Theater 1564 Broadway New York, NY 10036 (212) 730-8200 More than fifty years ago, a show about New York City changed musical theatre forever. Now, it’s coming home to make history once again. From the first notes to the final breath, West Side Story is one of the most memorable musicals and greatest love stories of all time. Arthur Laurents' book remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. The score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim -a collection of standards that includes 'Tonight,' 'America,' 'Maria,' 'I Feel Pretty' and 'Somewhere' - is widely regarded as one of the best ever written. And the extraordinary, Tony-winning choreography by Jerome Robbins completely changed the language of Broadway dance. This groundbreaking new production, directed by the legendary Mr. Laurents, will offer a bold new design that builds on the show’s raw power and emotion to create a fresh experience unlike any that came before it. Don't miss this thrilling presentation of a matchless work of art. Wicked Currently Playing Gershwin Theatre 222 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10019 (212) 586-6510 www.gershwintheatre.com Based on the Novel by Gregory Maguire, the music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) with a Book by Winnie Holzman. Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. One, born with emerald green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. Wicked follows these two unlikely friends and college roomates grow into very different women: The Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. Jersey Boys • • • • • Currently Playing August Wilson Theatre 245 W. 52th St. New York , NY 10019 (Between Broadway and Eigth Ave.) • (212) 541-8457 Jersey Boys is the story of how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time - Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide - all before they were 30! This new musical features their beloved hit songs "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Rag Doll", "Oh What a Night" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" just to name a few. Phantom of the Opera • • • • • Currently Playing Majestic Theater 247 West 44th Street New York, NY 10016 (212) 239-6200 Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash musicalization of the Gaston Leroux novel won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical. Now in its twenty first year on Broadway. Andrew Lloyd Webber's romantic musical masterpiece is based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel of life beneath the stage of the Paris Opera House where The Phantom reigns. Hideously deformed, he passes his time terrorizing the members of the Opera until he falls in love with Christine Daae, a chorus girl who he teaches to sing the 'Music of the Night'. Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece combines a quality of music genius with a strength of storyline and use of breathtaking theatrical effects that have enthralled audiences across generations.