Review: “Lowcountry Revolutionaries! America’s First Freedom Fighters” is a reminder to preserve our Charleston history

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By Mark A. Leon

The United States built a foundation on an inherent lie, noted in the Declaration of Independence,We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

All men are indeed not created equal, nor are women and children.? We are a collective pot of unique thoughts, ideas, talents, backgrounds and beliefs.? We are born with the gift of life which comes with it, free will.

No evidence more evident than the stories of the original freedom fighters, Colonel William Rhett, Captain Henry Felder, Rebecca Brewton Motte, John Laurens, John Featherston, Emily Geiger, Peter Harris, Francis Marion and Mary Tenor.? You may not know all these individuals by name, but their contributions collectively led to the privileges we all enjoy today.

Nine individuals of such differing backgrounds with one common thread, the passion to pursue to rights of all individuals to live under a free sky.

Lowcountry Revolutionaries! America’s First Freedom Fighters is a reminder of the culture and values that Charleston and the South are built upon.? As we look around and see the modern development and explosion of real estate and hotels, we are forced to reflect on a time that was and a time that will be.? Charleston is losing its roots and this play, in a way, is a new fight for the values and retention of the history that has made Charleston the Jewel of the South.? In 1760, lives were sacrificed for freedom.? Today, we must honor them and preserve what we have built.

Over the course of this 70 minute, one act play, our senses are awakened by storytellers of the past; narrative ghost stories of ordinary men and women that risked their lives in preservation of a principle.

The time-period is 1760-1783, blacks, whites, Indians, women, men and children all lived on the same land, each with their own individual struggles of change and survival.? Somehow, so many came together to raise their hands and weapons to the tyranny of the British rule.? It was a time of compromise, risk and sacrifice.? Some survived, some perished, but freedom was attained.

This is a poignant series of stories that pulls the audience in from the very opening monologue and musical accord.? With each character taking center stage, the rest of the cast surrounded the theater, cheering, singing and reiterating the words of these powerful stories while Tracy Bush, founder & director of Taiko Charleston, created the sounds of the times from unnerving anticipation to gun shots in the distance.? The echo in the room and surround sound effect created a setting of almost being alive in that era.

Individual Performances

David Perez, played John Featherston, a Navy man.? David, himself a 10-year veteran of the Air Force, serving 5 tours in Afghanistan and around the world, brought a powerful presence and respect to the stage with the embodiment of a man who fought 230 years ago as told through the vocals of a soldier who fights for our freedoms today.

Dante Rollerson as Peter Harris, a Catawba Indian, who fought with the Patriots was a performance ripe with unadulterated emotion.? He strength on stage and personal struggles his character made in the decision to fight for his land showed so clearly in his eyes and storytelling prowess.

Chris Weatherhead and Clarence Felder, whose relationship has spanned many decades from coast to coast and keeps getting stronger with each passing day, acted beautifully together.? Their affections could be seen from the back of the room and outlined so well that life was difficult during this period, but perseverance and love are powerful tools in overcoming adversity.

Robbin Knight, carried his film performance of John Laurens forward to the live stage recalling his personal journey to end slavery, 80 years before his time.? Until several Red Coat bullets would take his life, he never gave up on his commitment to create a land where all men and women have the same opportunities to be free.

In the Lowcountry, there are some roles you do not take lightly, and Francis Marion, Swamp Fox, is one of them. Michael Easler, brought a frailty and intimacy to his performance.? As the older, worn down version of the great tactical leader, Mr. Easler told very personal accounts as he limped across the stage.? It was a different man that we see on the statues or in the old paintings.? It was a man that understood his mortality and the men he lost along the way.? He came to grips with the sacrifices he made and was ready to share his story with all of us.

Myra Jones (Emily Geiger) and Michelle Warren (Mary Tenor) were superb in each of their own respective ways.? Myra brought an Irish accent so real to life and a candid portrayal of life as a woman, you felt comfort and empathy.? Michelle brought strength to her monologue.? With a powerful voice and a jovial laugh, she left it all on the stage, just the way her character who have done herself.

Our future is only as safe as about ability to remember and learn from the past.? Lowcountry Revolutionaries is an educational, entertaining and important look at our past as told by seven characters, with very personal accounts of a time when fighting for freedom was all they knew.

Their touching recollections remind us that we can’t lose sight or take advantage of what we have.? No matter what, we must remember those that helped light the fire of freedom.

Ticket Information and Purchase

Lifelong Learning with College of Charleston Professor Nan Morrison Back by Popular Demand This Spring with Hamlet

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5 Acts, 5 Tuesdays

Charleston, South Carolina, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The mysteries of Hamlet have intrigued playgoers for over 400 years and inspired innumerable adaptations in 70 languages. This class will consider those enigmas of reason and action, love and power by looking at one act of the five-act drama each successive Tuesday night for five weeks beginning March 27th, from 5:30pm until 7:00pm.

“One if the main tenets of the Charleston Library Society is to inspire a passion for lifelong learning in our members and community,” says CLS Executive Director, Anne Cleveland. “To have Nan Morrison bring her Shakespearean class back to us with Hamlet is exciting and wonderful.”
In prior years, Professor Morrison has taught Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies at the Library Society. This will be the first class taking an in-depth dive into a single play, but with the many twists and turns of Hamlet, discussion is sure to be lively and engaging through all five acts.

Admission for this Lifelong Learning class is $150 for members and $200 for nonmembers. To purchase tickets, please call 843-723-9912 or email dreutter@charlestonlibrarysociety.org???????.

 

About Nan Morrison
Nan Morrison?is a professor emeritus of English at the College of Charleston where she taught Shakespeare and Southern Literature, wrote articles in those areas, and held the Maybelle Higgins Howe Chair.

About the Charleston Library Society
Founded in 1748, The Charleston Library Society is the oldest cultural organization in the South, and the second oldest circulating library in the United States. Dedicated to serving its membership and promoting a culture of lifelong learning, The Charleston Library Society is located at 164 King Street, in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and offers a variety of educational and entertaining programs throughout the year.

Young actors find a home at the Charleston Performing Arts Center on James Island

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By Mark A. Leon

Yesterday, the James Island Junior Theater opened the stage to a sell-out crowd for their inaugural performance of “The Little Mermaid Jr.”? With a cast of youth actors up to age 18, parents, friends, siblings and loved ones smiled, laughed, and felt complete admiration as these talented and often brave young actors performed 20 scenes of the beloved classic “The Little Mermaid Jr.”.? With a constant flow of set changes during this single act performance, I was amazed at the level of talent and discipline of these young aspiring talents.

Scott Pfeiffer, Director and Operating Manager of the Charleston Performing Arts Center grew up surrounded by the arts and found his home early in his career performing youth theater in California.? His connection with the live stage and passion for helping to develop the talent of actors at all ages, lends itself to the remarkable achievement this Junior Theater has found.

With a generous team, including Savannah Schoenborn on choreography, Andrea Roule, music director, Kirk Pfeiffer on costumes and wigs, Shawn McIntosh leading scenic construction and painting, Jordan Benton on lighting and Derek Alverson on sound, we were taken to an underwater paradise where 25 humans, mermaids, crustaceans, fish and ocean life led us through a musical journey of love and fantasy.? All around the audience of eager fans were blue lights shot to the ceiling creating the illusion of the ocean while on stage painted canvases of teal and green made the transformation complete.

The show was highlighted by a spirited performance from Madelynne Burt as Sebastian with her humorous accent and nervous demeanor.? She was charming, energetic and nailed her vocals and dialogue with poise.? Lucy Dixon brought an innocence to the stage as Ariel.? She had a natural curiosity and awkwardness in her journey to find true love and you can’t help but want to see end up with her prince.

The two primary male leads, Joshua Tolbert as Prince Eric and Leo West as King Triton, were both strong and pronounced.? Both characters resided in extremely different places, but find parallels in their place in society with one holding a royal role under and one above the water.? Each must tackle a major challenge that tests their souls to find what they truly seek in life.? These were two excellent and heartwarming performances.

The remainder of the cast elevated the show with large ensemble musical numbers, keen supporting roles and a natural ability to remove their human skin and become one with their fantasy bigger than life characters.

Live theater is achieved when the collaborative efforts of a group of people both in front and behind the scenes come together in a passionate and cohesive exercise of love.? It takes hard work, rehearsal and a vulnerability to take on a character and become the embodiment of them.? Only a rare individual with inner strength and confidence to step out in front of hundreds of people and entertain can take on such a position.? I witnessed a great deal of talent on that stage and expect to see many of these performers for years to come.

The Charleston Performing Arts Center on James Island is making a selfless commitment to the Charleston area community to harness and shape the future of live performing arts in the Lowcountry.? We were honored to be part of the inaugural performance and season.

Including remaining shows for “The Little Mermaid Jr.”, the company will be performing “The Wizard of Oz”, “Peter Pan” and “Hairspray” to usher through this 2017-18 season.

Learn more today – Ticket and Audition Information

 

The Critics Have Spoken: Midtown Productions ‘It’s Only a Play’ is a Monster Hit

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By Mark A. Leon

‘It’s Only a Play’ presented by Midtown Productions delivers an insanely comedic and poignant powerhouse punch.

Setting:? It is opening night on Broadway for Peter Austin’s ‘Golden Egg’ and friends, family and the theater community have gathered at producer Julia Budder’s Manhattan townhouse anxiously awaiting the critics reviews.? As players from the big screen, small screen and theater community emerge, the symbiotic lunacy of compliments, mockery, underhanded stabs and intellectual snobbishness creates a seamless blend of intellectual and physical comedy that the local Charleston theater has not seen for some time.

Fresh out of the cornfields of Wisconsin (okay, Madison), Michael Okas plays the bright-eyed Gus P. Head, an aspiring actor, singer and performer who has just gotten his first gig in New York taking coats for the likes of Lady Gaga, Liza Minelli and the cast of Hamilton.? His boyish charm and innocence in a circle of gluttony, greed and narcissism brings a unique perspective that brings sweetness to the endless bottle of bourbon that is the acting community.

In act two, Gus breaks the tension of bad reviews and life evaluations with an inspired adaptation of ‘Defying Gravity’ that launched the audience into a standing ovation.

Jon Ballard provided a dominant performance as James Wicker, aka Wacker, the leading actor who turned down the lead role in ‘Golden Egg’, written by his best friend Peter to continue his long-standing role on an ABC sitcom.? His intellectual prowess and witty charm make him a prominent figure throughout the production.? As the evening progresses, his own vulnerabilities about selling out of live theater for the small screen begin to unravel until his finds a rekindling with his first true love, the theater.

Lynda Harvey-Carter takes on the role of Virginia Noyes, the Diva with absolute perfection.? If I sought out an actress just slightly past her prime, but not yet accepting the realization, that is constantly drunk and strung up on cocaine and prescription pills, there is no better actor in the theater community.? Her performance as the once decorated Oscar quality big screen actress being flushed out of her Hollywood life and looking for a rebirth on Broadway was close to flawless.

What critic hasn’t aspired to be a playwright or a screenwriter?? He hides behind his critical assessments holding onto that childhood dream of seeing your words produced into a reality.? Enter Ira Drew, played by Terry Davey.? Terry is verbally tortured, ridiculed, punched and defiled with food, yet he still stands behind his profession and continues to pursue his dream of being the creator of theater magic.? Terry, as Ira, performs his role with great timing, well situated dialogue and a certain off scene magic that still has him playing a critical role in scenes where he does not even have lines.? Through subtle behavior and mannerisms, his flamboyant nature continues to bring importance to the stage even has his observes from the corner of stage right.

A great ensemble comedy would not be complete without the neurotic British director, who suffers for his success.? Sir Frank Finger, played with beautiful precision by Xan Rogers is played so well that you won’t even know whether he is truly British or American.? He is a visionary genius and a kleptomaniac.? Bravo.

The producer, whom without her most generous disposable income, Broadway would be dead is played by Andrea K. McGinn in the role of Julia Budder.? Julia, who has more money than a king and as much knowledge of theater as a five-year-old, is bubbly, flamboyant, warm and driven.? As the supportive financial foundation of the “Golden Egg” she relies on the collective embodiment of her crew to ride the wave to success, or failure.? Her playful nature and normalcy compliments that actors by neutralizing the mad cap whirlwind of emotions.

Finally, our playwright, Peter Austin whose oration, passion for the core integrity of live theater and unquestionable respect for the history of Broadway is played with vulnerability and poise by Andy Livengood.? For those in the storytelling and improvisation community of Charleston, Andy is a figurehead of leadership and support for comedy and expressive performance art.? His training and experience in sketch comedy and improvisation make him a tour de force in this production.? From his prayer to the theater to his clever visualization of a new and revolutionary play to his outfit fit for the likes of Liberace, Peter delivers a performance to be remembered.

This two hour production will leave you in stitches, keeping you on your toes and truly understanding the unique life of a performer.? It is often said that there is a fine line between creativity and insanity.? In this case, the two lines clash in an off the wall comedic explosion.

We must commend Ryan C. Ahlert and Andre Hinds who co-directed this look inside the wild world of live theater.? At the end of the day, when we truly put our lives in perspective and look at how we react to the little nuances, we just need to remember, ‘It’s Only a Play’.

Live theater has been given to us as a gift to invoke conversation and debate, celebrate creativity and reward us with an escape.? ‘It’s Only a Play’ is a true celebration of the art of live theater and all the players that bring concept to reality.

Come out and celebrate.

Ticket Information – ‘It’s Only a Play (Midtown Productions) – October 13 – 29, 2017

Charleston Guide for All Personality Types (Adrenaline, Creative, Foodie, Learner, Music)

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

What is your personality type Charleston?

Are you a:

  • Adrenaline Junkie
  • Creative Genius
  • Foodie
  • Lifelong Learner
  • Music Maniac

No matter which category you fall into, we have you covered.? Here are a few tips and links to help you feed your passion.? Because in Charleston, passion fuels excitement.? Let’s make your Lowcountry experience exciting, memorable and fruitful.

The adrenaline junkie is always on the go.? They love the outdoors, sports and keeping active.? It can be a jog or bike ride or kicking back a few beers at a sporting event.? What does Charleston offer for the adrenaline junkie?

The creative genius is a snob; a creative artsy snob.? Not a bad thing.? They appreciate all the creative talents in Charleston.

Foodie.? Oh, the foodie.? A true culinary connoisseur.

The lifelong learner has a constant thirst for knowledge and information.? We have a bit of that.

There is so much more, but since you are a knowledge sponge, we will leave some of the additional research to you.

The music maniac.? We love the true music aficionado.? They feel it, understand it and appreciate it.? Here are a few venues to light your fire.

There you have it.? Whether you are an adrenaline junkie, creative spirit, foodie, learner or music maniac, here is a taste for all the incredible options in Charleston, SC.? Bring an appetite for fun and excitement.

 

 

 

 

 

Woolfe Street Playhouse Production of “Rock of Ages” brings down the house in a musical celebration

By Mark A. Leon / Photo by Minta Pavliscsak
By Mark A. Leon / Photo by Minta Pavliscsak

Throw all the rules of theater out the window, bottle up all the fun you can find in Charleston and then unleash it on stage.? Now, envision the quirky appeal of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the Farrelly Brothers in the throwback free spirited years of hair metal bands and you will be transplanted in the world of Woolfe Street Playhouse’s adaptation of Rock of Ages.

This two hour and fifteen-minute joyride with a soundtrack that includes Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Warrant, Steve Perry, Twisted Sister, Poison, Europe, Pat Benatar and Quiet Riot will keep you tapping your feet and lip syncing throughout the entire production.? As the cast puts their own spin on classic 80’s rock songs, you see a story of love, ambition, heartache and triumph unravel.

Picture Sunset Strip circa 1987 where lipstick dreams of stardom alive and well.? Entire a small town girl with a glow in her eyes and fantasies of the big screen in her head.? As she walks away from Dad in his John Deere suspenders and Mom weeping from the distance she knows a future of endless possibility awaits.? We have all have had that dream. Then she meets a Detroit, Michigan bar back on the strip who wants to light up the stage and rock.

Their worlds soon get turned inside out as this musical celebration of life, love, passion and ambition unfolds.

This cabaret style performance was converted into a virtual arena rock show with the audience playing a key supporting role.? With singing, clapping and even a bit of dancing at the conclusion, Rock of Ages literally will bring the crowd to its feet.

From the open lyrics of “Feel the noise; girls grab the boys; we get wild, wild, wild” and “Don’t need nothin’ but a good time, how can I resist.? Ain’t looking for nothin’ but a good time, and it don’t get better than this” you knew you were in for a ride.

In the final unleashed moment, the entire cast raise their arms with the final burst “Don’t Stop”.? Those final words sum up the true message and that is to live the life you want and never stop believing in yourself and your dreams.

The Bourbon Room is the setting of this love story narrated by the top hits of the 80’s.? Lonny Barnett, played refreshingly by Noah Smith adds his own brand of flirtatious humor and sarcasm as he narrates this rock and roll fantasy.? His over-zealous lust for life and warm-hearted appeal for love adds the perfect mix of insanity and humor to the production.

John Black and Sarah Callahan play Drew and Sherrie, the heart struck lovers who are thwarted by timing and the personal desires as they fight hard to bring their hearts together in the seedy under-belly of Sunset Strip.

Josh Wilhoit unleashes his inner rock star as Stacee Jaxx, the pompous long-haired lead singer of Arsenal who becomes too big for his own britches and learns a number of hard lessons in life.? Even as his career and spirits spiral to the ground, he never loses his thrill to rock.

Robbie Thomas as Dennis Dupree, the old rock star and owner of The Bourbon Club is played harmoniously well as he compliments the ensemble cast serving as the calm voice of reason in a world of musical chaos.

Tierney Breedlove, Scott Thomas and Derek T. Pickens lend a beautiful sub-plot as Regina, Hertz and Franz, a key conflict plotline of this tale.? Hertz and Franz see a future for the Sunset Strip that resembles more of a strip mall than a rock and roll gathering hub.

The energy of the cast and the was brought together harmoniously by the fueled stage direction of Keely Enright and the musical direction of Margaret Coleman.

Whether you want an evening of live musical theater that rejoices in the idea of love, music and a little kinky fun, relive the splendor of your youth or want to experience a place where the only thing in life was a great song and amazing mane of hair, Rock of Ages will sweep you away.

To Purchase Tickets Online – Rock of Ages (May 6 – May 29)

Photo by Minta Pavliscsak

 

The Magic of Mary Poppins Teaches Life Lessons – Charleston Stage

By Mark A. Leon / Edited by Loretta Jophlin
By Mark A. Leon / Edited by Loretta Jophlin

It may have been the unseasonal spring breeze or the sweet laughter of a dozen young ladies holding white umbrellas, but my stroll down the cobblestones of Church Street to the historic Dock Street Theater was foreshadowing of a magical evening where I would meet, Mary Poppins for the first time.

Let us for a moment fast forward to the conclusion of the play. It is a rare sight when an audience’s standing ovation transitions directly into a choral sing along. To the clapping and chanting of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the audience of children and adults alike joined the cast in a theater-wide celebration of life, family and youth. It was a joyful moment of exuberance that sent shivers from aisle to aisle. Characters joined the patrons in the aisles, dancing and singing until the final moments of the two hour and fifteen-minute production.

The Charleston Stage musical live adaptation of Mary Poppins is nothing short of artistic precision on a musical canvas. The vibrant colors of cherry blossoms in London and the welcoming teal of the children’s bedroom underscored a masterful set design that welcomes the audience into the magical world of Mary Poppins.
Barbara Young’s costume design swept the audience away to turn of the century England with its proper attire and class distinctions, rounding out the character personalities perfectly.

The use of strings for floating props and dramatic entrances played a critical supporting role in the production. The audience stood in awe at the edge of their seats as Mary arrived from the sky. During a wonderful musical number, Bert, played with lovable delight by Nathan Burke, scaled the walls dazzling a child in the audience who yelled out, “He’s on strings!” Even with that comment, the magical tricks of live theatre could not take away the feeling of wonderment.

Every child and adult found themselves humming or softly singing along to “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” yet the number that delighted me most was “Step in Time “in Act II. High on the rooftop, with an ensemble cast of chimney sweepers, Mary and Bert reminded us of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire with a comical ensemble flurry of Chaplin mixed in. It was a memorable and well-choreographed scene by Cara Dolan. Showing how the simple class worker could rejoice in the celebration of life high above on the rooftops, almost touching the stars, was an important element to the plays message of acceptance and happiness.

The picturesque Talk Shop / Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious scene deserves special mention. Here we are introduced to Mrs. Corey, a charming woman who never ages and runs the Talking Shop. With the use of letters, colorful costumes, playful and educational mayhem, that scene was a delight to witness as the audience members found themselves singing along

Veruka Salomone and Tyler Caplea as Jane and Michael Banks took on the extraordinary task of playing two young children in a home void of love, transforming through the magical world of Mary Poppins into a period of enlightenment. Their awakening from a conscious sleep and discovering the value of family, love and acceptance was the pivotal message of this play. Through the eyes of Mary Poppins, they found feelings hidden within themselves. In this enlightenment, George Banks, the children’s father played by Patrick Tierney, rediscovered a youth he thought he lost forever.

With a subtle smile and firm confidence, Carin Lagerberg played the the role of Mary Poppins perfectly. The complex character, made famous by the great Julie Andrews, requires an actress who authentically exudes firm discipline, a warm heart and a deep understanding of the value of family. Lagerberg made us believe she truly was Poppins, entering the lives of the Banks children and giving them what we all yearn for; a feeling of being loved.

Throughout the performance, Mary’s character introduced us all to her magical world. In the end, it wasn’t her flying umbrella, endless bag of props, or ability to bring stuffed animals and toys to life that won us over. It was her classy and beautiful way of reminding us that we are all young and innocent with the same desires for love and imagination.

Looking around, I watched children peering up at their parents and smiling, pointing to the stage, laughing, singing and curling up in their parents’ arms. Sometimes, you experience something that puts you in a better place. Charleston Stage’s production of Mary Poppins is both entertaining and a valuable reminder of why we should love our family and stay young as long as we can.

Click Here to Purchase Tickets – Mary Poppins

Threshold Repertory Theatre’s Presentation of Bent shares a message of love

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon. Editor: Loretta Jophlin. Photo by Mystic Productions

Max, played exquisitely by Patrick Arnheim described, “I kissed her soft dead lips, her breasts just beginning” as he proved to a group of drunk SS soldiers he wasn’t “queer” on a train to the concentration camp of Dachau. ?Bent is a story of transformation and emotional connection in a period of time deemed so horrific that survivors have spent their lives hiding behind the nightmares, trying desperately to forget the moral compromises needed to stay alive.? This two act play tells stories which culminate into an enlightened moment of love in a place where souls are lost and the choice between life and death is clouded by insanity.

With a delicate use of lighting and shadows, a psychedelic cinematic themes and music, 1930’s Berlin was recreated to set the mood for an incredible story of survival and love.? To many, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the unspeakable acts of torture, mass genocide, humiliation, emotional isolation and sacrifice of the human spirit by the Nazi Party is a period of history we can never forget and one so difficult to re-create. With a flash of courage, Director Jay Danner, brought the words of Martin Sherman’s Bent, to life.

Bent centers around Max, played by exquisitely by Patrick Arnheim.? Max is a carefree playboy, whose dependance on alcohol and drugs, loose men and living by the seat of his pants attitude is all he ever knew until the day his world changed.? With two shots fired and years on the run, Max and his partner Rudy fought every day for survival.? In an evolutionary transformation, Max’s life and everyone he knows change drastically over the course of the following three years.? From a tiny one bedroom apartment to the isolation of a dirt floor and electrified fence, Max lost everyone and everything, including his will to live.

What he discovered after is the story of Bent.

Breaching such difficult subject matter was a challenge for this production.? During strategically placed moments throughout, subtle lines of humor were unleashed to provide emotional relief to the audience.? These penetrating innuendos and jokes helped bring a sane balance to the actors and comfort to the crowd.

Photo by Mystic Productions

Much like Max, the other characters of Bent were flawed. Rudy, played by Brandon Martin, Uncle Freddy, played by Nat Jones and Horst played with riveting emotion by Randy Risher, showed imperfections shaping their unique personalities.? Ultimately, they were all transformed.

People of Jewish faith and culture and those who identify with the gay community were pertinent and polarizing parts of the historic make-up of the period, and 75 years later, these two groups remain marginalized.?Today, we fight racial and religious injustice and moral objection to certain lifestyles.? We continue to fight prejudice and hate.? It is a war that will not end, but we must keep fighting.

Therein lies the message of Bent that the audience will take away.? Love sees no color, no creed, no gender, no religion.? Love is an objective experience we cannot escape.? Once it grabs a hold, we are taken to places we cannot control. . . places of happiness. . .places of security.

In one very poignant moment, Max finds serenity in the gentle but worn arms of Horst.? Surrounded by guns, torture and hatred, he found love.

Ticket Information for Bent

 

“Collected Stories” at Midtown Theatre, a Must See For All

CS_R&L.toasting
By Minta Pavliscsak.

Midtown Productions, owner and operator of Midtown Theatre located at 2816 Azalea Drive, North Charleston has started 2016 off strong with a captivating show that will make you laugh, reminisce, and ultimately contemplate those all too important “life decisions” you made back in your college years.

“Collected Stories”, produced by Sheri Grace Wenger is winding down it’s production at Midtown Theatre.?Written by Donald Margulies, “Collected Stories” first premiered at South Coast Repertory in California on April, 1996 and had a two month run on Broadway in 2010. It follows the dynamic relationship between a celebrated writer and her graduate student protégé over the course of six years in the 1990’s.

Angst, intimidation, pride, doubt and an insatiable need to be accepted are only a few of the emotions that leap off the stage from the only two stars sharing in the spotlight. The performance takes place in the Greenwich Village apartment of Ruth Steiner, a straightforward professor and mentor, played by two time winner of the Charleston’s “Best Actress” Samille Basler. Opposite her is exceedingly bubbly Lisa Morrison, played by Charleston newcomer Sarah Glendening. Seemingly incompatible at first, Ruth and Lisa develop a bond that far exceeds that of your typical professor/student rapport.

The pair develops an intimate mother daughter tie fueled by penetrating moments where life and school lessons are shared in a tapestry of complex exchanges. We watch them go from lightheartedly sharing afternoon tea to having a falling out over the thing that brought them together in the first place which establishes the main conflict of the play. The emotional separation begins to build momentum subtly around the same time that Lisa’s writing career flourishes.CS.Lisa@window1

The author scripts out a poignant moment in the play when Lisa gets her first review and she is overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainly and depression.? This mental tug of war between success and seeking refuge in a mentor is one so many in the academic circles must face.? Ruth, being true to her unapologetic ways, tells Lisa “There’s nothing worse than getting what you wanted.”

Set Designer Ryan Ahelert did an exceptional job with “Collected Stories”. We were easily transported back to the 1990’s in part to his careful attention to detail. We spend the entire play sharing in Ruth’s living room space. It’s comfortable here with her bookshelf filled with books of influence and interest, coat rack that has one too many coats hanging on it, and a messy desk piled up with folders and mail. Ruth and Lisa’s movements flowed seamlessly around the stage and nothing seemed to distract the audience from them.

Midtown Theatre is structured to offer an open cabaret style format.? Along with engaging theatrical performances, the theater offers wine, charcuterie and dessert plates. ?Midtown Productions has been happily calling this place home for just over a year now, and they are excited for what their future here holds.

There are only three more opportunities to catch Samille Basler and Sarah Glendening in their starring roles as Ruth Steiner and Lisa Morrison this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can purchase tickets here for the three remaining 8:00 shows. Make sure to keep Midtown Productions on your watch list. They have some great shows coming up for the rest of this season including an upcoming performance of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” beginning February 11.

CS_.Both.Woody1
Photos courtesy of Nancy Santos.

A Wrinkle in Time: Theatre Magic in Action – Threshold Repertory Theatre

By Jessica Edwards
By Jessica Edwards

I have had the immense pleasure of working with a varied group of artists these past few weeks at Threshold Repertory Theatre on A Wrinkle in Time. My fellow cast mates and I have all been tasked with bringing the words to life, a challenge regardless of genre. However, science fiction and fantasy are quite a different obstacle for the miracle workers of any and all theatre productions: the designers.

Most plays have established parameters within which the designers work. There are always challenges, to be sure, but there are givens due to the nature of the play: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, for instance, is one way or another going to be set on Big Daddy’s plantation. Even if the director made the choice to move the play from the 50s, the costumes would all be uniform in time. Lighting and sound also tend to favor realism for that kind of show.

Now, take A Wrinkle in Time: a well known children’s book by Madeline L’Engle adapted into a play by John Glore. Three kids go through space in time to fight evil and win back their father, with the help of three former stars. There isn’t exactly an aesthetic principle for that.

So I decided to reach out to the designers, our directors, and stage manager about the process of putting together a piece of sci fi for the stage.

“Sci-fi requires big imaginations from the actor, designer and audience member. I feel we all too often get stuck ‘playing adult’ and have forgotten how to see the world from a child’s eyes. A sci-fi production allows us to reconnect with our inner child who sees endless possibility,” says Kristen Bushey, a veteran costume designer in the Charleston area, with over 50 productions under her belt as a designer.

wrinkle1She faced the particular challenge of designing distinct and fantastic looks that could easily and quickly be shed for another, as several of the actors were double, triple, and quadruple casted. “This limited the possibilities of makeup and wig design–a very important element of many sci-fi based productions. Therefore, the costume design itself had to be spectacular (no pressure).” Though I may be a bit biased, I believe she definitely accomplished that goal, with stunning and varied character pieces, that range from Victorian to gypsy to sheepdog.

Shawn McIntosh, the scenic designer for A Wrinkle in Time and assistant technical director for Threshold, also had his hands full creating a set that could, with limited effort, be transformed from a typical American kitchen to various alien planets. The main features of the set are a raked platform center stage, which serves a variety of purposes, and rotating walls made of colored flats with four sides. The ‘tesser affect’ side of the flats are described by Shawn as “the convergence of light and sound,” and feature whirls of color that really increase the sense of dislocation felt by the main characters.

The man wearing the most hats for this production is Mike Kordeck, who is the technical director for Threshold, and for A Wrinkle in Time, was the director, light, and sound designer. One tool of the theatre trade that has rapidly increased in popularity that Mike utilized is the use of projections–images, text, and short videos projected on a scrim or other material. CGI in film is one of the main ways science fiction elements are executed–projections are are the live theatre equivalent, effectively elevating the scenery when used appropriately, although projections usually fall under lighting design.
On directing this piece, Mike said, “One of the first things that went through my mind was how to bring this fantastic story to life. I had a lot of ideas running through my head; most of which have come to fruition. I would love to mention some–but don’t want to ruin it for you when you see it.”

Courtney Daniels, the executive Director at Threshold, assisted Mike in directing the play. She believes A Wrinkle In Time “offers more than just a sci-fi story. It offers audiences the chance to use their imagination and tap into spaces they haven’t used since childhood. It also centers on themes of family, friendships, and a sense of identity and the importance of all these factors in one’s life.”

From the first few days of rehearsal, A Wrinkle in Time has been a wonderful undertaking, fraught with challenges and alive with laughter. Alex Skipper, the company stage manager for Threshold, summed up our experience quite well, “I just want people to appreciate this show for the magic that it is. There was a lot of dedicated, talented people from cast and crew who have worked on this show and it truly is a piece of theatre magic. It’s taken a lot of time and dedication to put on a show, in a 99 seat black box theatre, that travels to 9 different locations in a hour and a half. It is a labor of love, that’s for sure.”

A Wrinkle In Time runs weekends from October 30th-November 22nd, with 8:00 pm shows Friday and Saturday and 3:00 pm shows Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available online at charlestontheatre.com.

Behind the scenes