WASHINGTON, D.C.: If the Twitter reports are to be believed, the mood at a public forum called The Summit last February was tense, as artistic directors for D.C.’s major theatres struggled to answer questions from Washington Post critic Peter Marks and audience members about why their programming isn’t more diverse. One disparity, highlighted by attendee Elissa Goetschius, artistic director of Baltimore’s Strand Theatre, was between male and female playwrights; and one of her questions was whether the just-announced Women’s Voices Theatre Festival is one way D.C.’s big theatres can redress the disparity.
Since it was announced before The Summit, the festival couldn’t have been a response to these tough questions. But the effort—led by Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith and Signature Theatre artistic director Eric Schaeffer—to organize world premieres by female playwrights at 44 local playwrights for the fall of 2015 was indeed born of a brunch meeting among Smith, Schaeffer and the leaders of five other local theatres: Paul Tetreault of Ford’s Theatre, Michael Kahn of Shakespeare Theatre Company, Howard Shalwitz of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, David Muse of Studio Theatre and Ryan Rilette of Round House Theatre.
Rilette stirred controversy at The Summit when he argued that there weren’t enough plays by women circulating in the New York/London “pipeline.” Here’s hoping this festival can pump in some fresh blood. February’s The Summit was the first in a three-part series about D.C. theatre at Arena Stage. The final part is scheduled to be held on April 28. Go to www.arenastage.org.
DETROIT: Actor/playwright Sean Paraventi is staging a temporary takeover of Motor City theatre. His comedy The Current, about a bachelorette party, runs at Two Muses Theatre in Bloomfield, Mich., through April 13, while Love Is Strange, a cold-blooded, mature tale, runs at Magenta Giraffe Theatre April 4–26.
Paraventi didn’t act in his first full-length play until he was in his mid-30s, and he didn’t start writing until he was over 40. But he has earned two Wilde Award nominations since putting his pen to paper.
“I’ve never written anything close to this dark and disturbing,” he says about Love Is Strange, which calls into question the true nature of predators and victims and involves a blood-spattered costume design. “I didn’t set out to shock,” says Paraventi, “but I didn’t shy away from it, either. Sometimes I did feel a little creepy after a writing session, and I wondered how I would be perceived because of this play. If I lose couple of Facebook friends because of it, so be it.”
Notes Magenta Giraffe’s artistic director, Frannie Shepherd-Bates, who directs Love Is Strange, “We want to be sure our patrons know what they’re in for when they buy a ticket.”
The Current, on the other hand, takes a keen look at the nature of female friendships when a bachelorette party is sprung upon a woman who happens to be a psychic. Paraventi, who has three older sisters, says he wrote the play while working a job with a number of twentysomething women. “That definitely fed the story,” he says. “Honestly, all I try to do is get to know my characters (men or women) and see where they take the story.” All over town, apparently. Go to www.twomusestheatre.org and www.magentagiraffe.org.
CHICAGO: DePaul University doesn’t just teach its students; it’s also now schooling its colleagues on green initiatives, with four buildings on its campus having received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Its latest addition is the new theatre school building, which received a “gold” status for its green roofing, water-efficient landscaping, use of recycled materials and automated lighting and mechanical systems controls.
The building opened last September and was designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, with consultation from Shuler Shook. “This is no
small feat with a building that contains so many large-volume spaces and
operates long hours,” says Bob Janis, vice president of facility operations at DePaul. Visit www.theatre.depaul.edu.
NEW YORK CITY: The anarchic spirit of New York’s 1980s performance-art scene will be resurrected April 17–27 at La MaMa with the Tom Murrin Full Moon Performance Festival. Murrin was best known as the Alien Comic, in which role he performed street theatre and opened for punk acts, repurposing found objects—a.k.a. trash—and improvising quick-change spectacles. Among the staples of his repertoire was a “comic ritual” salute to his personal muse, Luna Macaroona, which he would perform on the nights of a full moon, wherever he happened to be. He began offering Full Moon Spectaculars at Performance Space 122 alongside such downtown icons at Ethyl Eichelberger, John Kelly, Steve Buscemi and Mark Boone Jr., and continued the tradition in various venues until his death in 2012.
To celebrate his life and legacy, the Full Moon Festival will feature readings of his plays, which he began writing as one of the “first generation” of La MaMa playwrights; an exhibit of his masks and artwork; and a discussion of his work.
Two full-scale Murrin productions will also be offered: Cock-Strong, performed by the N.Y.-based theatre collective St. Fortune, and Myth or Meth (or Maybe Moscow?), a Sochi Olympics–inspired retooling of Murrin’s Myth (or Maybe Meth) by Radiohole (“in association with Vladimir Putin,” according to the troupe’s cheeky blurb). The festival has a page on Facebook.
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