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Your passport to life behind the curtain!

WATCH: Meet Company XIV

From time to time, TDF Stages will highlight exciting Off and Off-Off Broadway theatre companies with exclusive “getting to know you” videos. Today we’re featuring Company XIV, a dance-theatre company where art and entertainment crash together.

 This video features company members Austin McCormick, Laura Careless, and Davon Rainey.

Company XIV is currently presenting Nutcracker Rouge: A Burlesque Confection, its naughty spin on the holiday classic.

Meet More Theatres!

This video was directed by Mark Blankenship, TDF’s online content editor, and shot and edited by Nicholas Guldner.

December 17, 2014   No Comments

This Play Needs a Co-Star. How About You?

Jonny Donahoe in Every Brilliant Thing

Jonny Donahoe in Every Brilliant Thing

The surprisingly rich audience participation in Every Brilliant Thing

You’re closer than you realize to co-starring in an Off-Broadway play. Just buy a ticket to Every Brilliant Thing, now at the Barrow Street Theatre, and you could easily land a significant role. That’s because the show relies on audience participation, and in a meatier, more dramatic way than you’ll find at a typical improv night.

As the unnamed narrator (played by British stand-up comedian Jonny Donahoe) tells the story of his mother’s suicidal depression and his own attempts to cure her, he enlists the crowd to play the people he loves. Randomly chosen patrons portray his father, his love interest, and even his veterinarian, and through some ingenious work by playwright Duncan Macmillan, they’re able to seriously impact the story.

At one point, for instance, the narrator tells us his therapist liked to play a game with him during their sessions, and based on how the selected audience member responds, he adjusts the rules. That leaves the civilian looking correct, no matter what.

And then there’s the list. When he’s a little boy, the narrator’s strategy for “curing” his mom is to create a numbered list of every wonderful aspect of the world. As he calls out numbers, audience members read the corresponding “brilliant thing” on a paper that Donahoe has given them before the show. By the end of the sixty minute production, which comes to New York after successful runs in England and Scotland, we’ve all become a chorus of celebration.

Crucially, the list (as well as Donahoe’s feisty performance) makes this play about depression and suicide feel buoyant and nuanced, not viciously dark or cheaply optimistic. As Macmillan says, “There’s a way of talking about it that’s sincere and funny and accessible and tries to communicate the complexity of the issue without being mawkish about it. That’s the tightrope walk.”

The impact depends, of course, on Donahoe finding people who want to participate, but that’s why he spends 20 minutes circulating through the house before showtime, passing out pieces of the list. “During that, I cast the play,” he says. “I try to get people involved in the spirit of sharing something. It would be very easy to give those sheets to the ushers and say, ‘Here you go! Hand them out at random!’, but that’s not what we’re creating.” [Read more →]

December 16, 2014   No Comments

Your Holiday Gift Guide: Theatre Books

So many theatre books!

So many theatre books!

Got a theatre fanatic in the family? Or a friend looking for a good read? Theatre books make perfect stocking stuffers, providing readers a lasting memento of an inherently ephemeral art form. Below are 12 books that would make perfect gifts this holiday season.

(1) The Untold Stories of Broadway, Volume 2 by Jennifer Ashley Tepper

For a front row seat to the ins and outs of the Great White Way, look no further than Tepper’s compilation of juicy stories. Told by the artists behind some of your favorite Broadway shows, this second volume covers eight theatres and over 70 years of theatrical history. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds will benefit TDF’s educational programs! [BUY HERE]

(2) Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr

A riveting personal biography, thoughtful textual analysis, and deeply resonant history rolled into one, Lahr’s long-awaited biography of America’s most tortured playwright makes for a sensational read. Given its in-depth research and incisive appraisals of Williams’ early and late plays, it’s no wonder the biography is generating buzz for the National Book Award. [BUY HERE]

(3) 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl

In this delightful, insightful essay collection, Ruhl seeks to understand life, performance, and motherhood through the prism of the artistic process. Covering everything from sleeping in the theatre to lice, the award-winning playwright’s thoughts are refreshingly bite-sized, making her piquant aphorisms pop. [BUY HERE]

(4) Fosse by Sam Wasson
As Wasson makes clear, Bob Fosse’s legacy encompasses far more than splayed hands and bowler hats. The iconic choreographer’s life proves as thrilling as his career in this revealing biography, which chronicles his offstage escapades with never-before-heard anecdotes from friends, enemies, and lovers alike. [BUY HERE]

(5) The O’Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater by Jeffrey Sweet

Accompanied by fascinating archival photographs, this sweeping history of the country’s foremost new play laboratory is as striking as it is informative. Theatre buffs will marvel at the effect the O’Neill has had on American culture—launching everyone from August Wilson to Meryl Streep—and the unlikely stories that led to its creation. [BUY HERE]

(6) Seth’s Broadway Diary, Volume 1 by Seth Rudetsky

Rudetsky’s Playbill columns have long been a source of informative industry know-how and delicious Broadway gossip. Now compiled into one journal of eye-opening, often hilarious personal experiences, these scoopiest of inside scoops will prove irresistible to anyone obsessed with the Great White Way. [BUY HERE] [Read more →]

December 15, 2014   No Comments

Do You Care More About the Captive or the Captor?

Justin Kirk (r) and Usman Ally

Justin Kirk (r) and Usman Ally

Usman Ally brings alluring layers to Ayad Akhtar’s latest play

Welcome to Building Character, our ongoing look at performers and how they create their roles

Nick Bright, the American investment banker who’s kidnapped and held for ransom in Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand, certainly evokes some sympathy. In the play, which is now at New York Theatre Workshop, he has to raise his own ransom by playing the stock market, turning a $3 million investment into $10 million. He endures mercurial treatment at the hands of his kidnappers, plus he’s got a wife and 3-year-old back home. Yet despite all this, you may find yourself drawn to Bashir, one of Nick’s captors.

Played with a razor sharp edge by Usman Ally, Bashir is British born of Pakistani heritage. “I think the audience gets thrown off by that,” says the actor, who also starred in the first production of Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced. “In the first scene they meet [the character] Dar, who speaks English with a Pakistani accent. When they see me they expect me to sound the same, but instead I’ve got this middle-class English brogue.”

As Bashir stalks the stage, spitting out Britishisms like “dirty old geezer,” the audience gets fleeting information about his past and what turned him into toward militancy. But Ally’s performance never falls to caricature: Bashir’s anger, disenfranchisement, and angst are all very real. His student/teacher dynamic with Nick, from whom he learns the tricks of the economic trade, is also surprising, and in these scenes Bashir is like that disruptive schoolmate who could be the smartest in the class if only he could manage to control his outbursts. (When he lashes out at his captive, though, we remember just who is in control.) [Read more →]

December 15, 2014   No Comments

War Lesbians in the Concrete Jungle

Kristine Haruna Lee, Erin Markey, & Jessica Almasy

Kristine Haruna Lee, Erin Markey, & Jessica Almasy

An old Inuit myth inspires a musical about modern queer woman

In the case of the new musical War Lesbian, the title came first.

Once that evocative name was in place, playwright and performer Kristine Haruna Lee, who wrote the show with composer Kathryn Hathaway, began researching female driven, queer-centered myths. “Myths are always a really big part of my creative process,” she says. “Whenever I am looking for something to ground me, I turn to myth.”

Ultimately,  it was an Inuit story about a girl named Sedna that sparked Lee’s imagination for the show, which runs at Dixon Place through Dec. 20.

In the story Sedna, played by downtown doyenne Erin Markey, lives in a small village, where her family is trying to marry her off. Though she encounters multiple suitors, she refuses them all, and the men keep mysteriously disappearing. “It turns out that Sedna has been eating these men and her parents find out,” Lee explains. “There are a few different versions of the myth. In one version she ends up eating her parents. There’s another one where her father takes her out on a boat into the ocean and throws her overboard. But Sedna clings on to the boat. He then chops off her fingers, and her fingers turn into seals in the ocean and she becomes this major goddess, an Inuit champion.” [Read more →]

December 11, 2014   No Comments