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Holland Taylor in "Ann" on Broadway. (Photo by Ave Bonar)

Front & Center for April 2016

Stories about autism, Chicago shows, a musical about a young girl in 1890s Paris, and more take the stage this month.

at_apr16_Mirette-ColorAny theatrical effort is a bit of a high wire act, but in the case of Mirette, it’s literally true. This 1996 musical about a young girl in 1890s Paris striving to master the circus’s most gravity-defying skill was the last one written by The Fantasticks creators Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, and though it never took off as a hit, it’s getting another chance thanks to Mireya Hepner, producer at MainStreet Theatre Company in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. A few years back, Hepner approached the show’s book writer, Elizabeth Diggs, and asked her if she could tweak the show, adapted from Emily Arnold McCully’s popular children’s book, into a 60-minute family-friendly concoction. Hepner also snagged an NEA grant so that Diggs could be on site to revise the show. Et voilà!

The rewired Mirette runs April 18–May 8 at MainStreet’s Lewis Family Playhouse, directed by Casey Stangl and featuring circus acts staged by the versatile Rob Mermin and designs by Francois-Pierre Couture. Talk about walking the walk.
—Rob Weinert-Kendt

Stories of young people and autism take the spotlight in Southern theatres this month. Lee Hall’s Spoonface Steinberg at Burning Coal Theatre Company in Raleigh, N.C., April 7–24, is a monologue about the meaning of life from the point of view of a 7-year-old girl dying of cancer. Originally an audio play broadcast on BBC’s Radio Four in 1997, this staging will feature a different actor in the lead role of Spoonface in every performance. As with the play’s radio premiere, Burning Coal will support the spoken word with live music.

In a similar vein, 7 Stages in Atlanta will present Michael Haverty and Erwin Maas’s Inside I (April 21–May 8), which follows a boy on the autism spectrum from birth through age 18. The play dives into the boy’s mind, exploring his obsession with escaping into the world of video through puppets, performers, and live-feed cameras. Wherever they turn, it seems, young people seek to mediate their experiences through, well, media. —Allison Considine

Lee Savage's scenic design for "The Realness" at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
Lee Savage’s scenic design for “The Realness” at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

This month, Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Mass., continues its run of The Realness by Idris Goodwin (March 16–April 10), a ‘90s love story about an aspiring hip-hop artist named T.O. who falls for an experienced MC. When designing the set, Lee Savage said he was “inspired by the idea of creating a sculptural landscape for The Realness made out of real objects that could become an expression of T.O.’s world as we go on his journey. The Realness immediately made me think of stacks and stacks of speakers. Speakers that could practically emit the beats of our ‘break beat’ play, but that could also become the skyline and fabric of an urban environment.” —Diep Tran

"The Realness" at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
“The Realness” at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

Travis Turner and Danny McCarthy in "The Flick" at Steppenwolf. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Travis Turner and Danny McCarthy in “The Flick” at Steppenwolf. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Chicago is always a good place to see a show, and this month is no exception. Steppenwolf Theatre Company mainstays Tracy Letts and Anna D. Shapiro are together again with Mary Page Marlowe (AT, March ’16), running March 31–May 29 (and if you’re hankering for a double feature, Annie Baker’s The Flick, which opened Feb. 4, runs through May 8 in the upstairs space). At Victory Gardens, Lucas Hnath’s Hillary and Clinton, in its world premiere April 1–May 1, looks back at her ill-fated 2008 campaign for president.

For those more musically inclined, the Hypocrites has brought back the Chicago-born Adding Machine: A Musical, Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt’s adaptation of Elmer Rice’s 1923 play about Mr. Zero murdering his boss after being replaced by a machine. The show, which runs at the Den Theatre March 18–May 15, had its first production in 2007 at the now-defunct Next Theatre, directed by David Cromer. Meanwhile, the Q Brothers’ acclaimed hip-hop take on the Bard, Othello: The Remix, (AT, Oct. ’13), returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater April 12–May 8 as part of Shakespeare 400.

Just a Metra train ride outside the city is Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill., where a revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, running March 16-May 1, inaugurates the company’s brand-new $34 million Jeanne Gang–designed space. —Suzy Evans


Theatre is always at least partly about place—a theatre itself is a place—but a crop of productions in the Rockies and the Southwest this month are taking that relationship to location to heart, with a handful of plays staged in or near the places they’re set. First up, Holland Taylor’s Ann, about former Texas governor Ann Richards, runs April 6–May 15 at Austin’s ZACH Theatre, less than two miles from the Governor’s Mansion. Then Boise Contemporary Theater in Idaho presents the world premiere of Margin of Error (or, The Unassailable Wisdom of the Mouse and the Scorpion), about a political strategist stranded in the airport of the company’s home city (April 13–May 7). Finally, a little further afield (three states over, if we’re counting), Colorado Springs, Colo.’s THEATREWORKS mounts David Belasco’s 1905 romance The Girl of the Golden West, in which the street-smart title character finds herself rubbing elbows with crass miners during the California Gold Rush, April 28–May 15. Yeehaw! —Russell M. Dembin


News in Brief

CHICAGO: Expanding its footprint on Navy Pier, Chicago Shakespeare Theater will begin construction on a new venue called the Yard this spring. The $35 million project, set to open in the 2017–18 season, involves placing an indoor theatre chamber beneath the Skyline Stage, a nearby venue, and designing a new lobby to attach the Yard to the existing CST facility. The Yard will be designed by UK firm Charcoalblue and New York City– and Chicago-based firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. The performance space promises to be flexible, with mobile towers and three floors of seating that can be reconfigured into different seating formations. The maximum capacity will be 850.

LOS ANGELES: Latino Theatre Company has announced the launch of the Temblors, a new collective of Los Angeles–based playwrights. Inspired by collectives like New York’s 13P or the Welders in Washington, D.C., LTC will bring seven world premiere productions from the seven Temblors playwrights to its home at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. The playwrights are Meghan Brown, Nate Rufus Edelman, Oliver Mayer, John Pollono, Kemp Powers, Vasanti Saxena, and t. tara turk. The inaugural production, slated for 2017, will be Pollono’s Rules of Seconds, directed by Jo Bonney.

NEW YORK CITY: The 99-year-old Drama Book Shop suffered a burst water pipe in February, which flooded the store and ruined much of its inventory on acting, history, and design. But help came in the form of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who encouraged his more than 280,000 Twitter followers to #BuyaB­ook. The store, founded in 1917, is the only performing arts bookstore left in Manhattan and one of the only such shops in the world. With an increase in sales and a benefit concert March 26, there’s little doubt that the Drama Book Shop will live to see 100 and beyond.

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