by August Wilson

Report
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 [1] 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 fiancée 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 fiancée. 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.

similar documents