For its 10th annual panto, People’s Light and Theatre Company reprises its most successful venture into that festive British form: 2008’s Cinderella. For audiences (with or without children) who missed the Barrymore-winning show its first time around, and those curious about all the panto fuss, the return engagement helps explain why this theatrical variant has been a holiday favorite across the pond since the 18th century.
There are many UArts connections in this article. From Pete Pryor (Acting ‘90) to Ryan Touhey (MT ‘09) to Costumer Rosemarie McKelvey who teaches Costume and Property Tech. I’m sure there are more connections than these!
A look into the first week of rehearsals for The University of the Arts’ upcoming production of Spring Awakening, directed by Rick Stoppleworth! Spring Awake…
Musical Theater senior, Madison Auch, has been creating insightful video blogs about the creation of our upcoming production, Spring Awakening.
We asked her to write a little about her process and how she began to create these blogs. Here is what she said:
I started making video blogs my freshman year when I was music directing a senior piece - In This House. We wanted a way to get the word out about the show and get people excited about it and so, having just learned how to work iMovie, I volunteered to document the process, making blogs to share with everyone as we went through the rehearsals. After that it just stuck, and I started blogging all of the shows I worked on, in addition to a few others that directors asked me to come in for. I really enjoy doing it because it not only gets us publicity as we prepare to open and gives everyone involved a nice little scrapbook of the show once the run is over, but it’s also a way of getting information about the school out there for others to see. I’ve had countless freshmen and prospective students reach out to me and say that seeing my videos is what got them excited about coming to The University of the Arts. All it takes is a basic understanding of iMovie, a director who’s willing to let me run around during rehearsals with my camera, and a desire to share our work and our love for the production - now all I can do is hope that everyone else is as touched by the show as I have been and continue to be every day.
And after you’ve viewed this one, here are some links to some of the others. Enjoy!
Here at the Brind School we are hard at work getting ready for our next production on our main stage Spring Awakening.Our dramaturg on the production, Aria Velz (Directing, Playwriting and Production, ‘14), has written some insightful program notes that we would like to share with you to get you ready for this terrific production. Tickets may be purchased at tickets.uarts.edu. Enjoy.
But there’s no where to hide from these bones, from my mind It’s broken inside - I’m a man and a child
So sings Melchior Gabor in a murmur, caught in the crux of adolescence and adulthood. LikeMelchior, the young people in Spring Awakening are deliberately misinformed, lied to, or ignored, not taught the lessons of adulthood and its consequences. Yet these children are held accountable, expected to never ask questions yet denied their right to know the nature of their desires. Based on German dramatist Frank Wedekind’s revolutionary play, The Awakening of Spring, the musical Spring Awakening made its premiere Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company in 2006, one hundred years after the premiere of The Awakening of Spring in 1906.
However, the fact that they premiered one hundred years apart was not a clever marketing hook or artistic homage by Spring Awakening’s creators or producers, but rather a testament to the timelessness of the issues raised in The Awakening of Spring and the urge to constantly challenge social norms as we move into a new century.
Spring Awakening follows the topics its source play challenges, which are surprisingly, or just unfortunately, common throughout Western history: Sexual repression, suicide of youth, disenfranchised homosexuality, child abuse, just to name a few. Wedekind had a keen sense of society’s pressing issues and the effectiveness of the cycle of oppression. His young characters try to break out of the mold of an oppressive German Imperialist culture, yet simultaneously push each other out of fear. But though we see through the eyes of children, he does not make the adults villains; they are trapped also, pawns in a larger, antagonistic system designed to make a regime out of every community and a solider of every individual.
Similar to the expectations his characters faced from their community, Frank Wedekind himself was a middle-class man unable to match expectations set by his father to be a lawyer. Though Wedekind did go to law school, he was dissatisfied with the lifestyle and dropped out, and his father subsequently disowned him. Wedekind then participated in a number of occupations - journalist for a magazine, secretary for an art dealer, and even an accountant for the circus - and in those numerous jobs he became acquainted with art and the artists’ community. The Awakening of Spring was his first play, and after writing several plays that challenged Germany’s sexually repressive society, most notably what are known as The Lulu Plays, Wedekind struggled with constant censorship by the German government, which considered Wedekind’s work anti-German. Indeed, he understood the challenges of speaking out against an oppressive society, but was able to slip through the cracks that many of his characters could not avoid.
The Awakening of Spring finally premiered in 1906, ten years after Wedekind finished it, and produced by a reparatory company he founded himself. Critical response was polarized, to say the least. Some critics and artists lauded the play for its evocative subject matter and its seething critique of German middle-class and oppressive environment, while others found the play to be abhorrently pornographic and anti-German. This reputation of the play followed it across countries and continents. Even in the the United States, where freedom of expression is constitutional guarantee, The Awakening of Spring was subject to extreme censorship. In 1917, the play endured a grueling legal battle when a production was mounted in New York City; the Commissioner of Licenses was attempting to shut down the production altogether until a New York court gave an injunction to ensure that the play would premiere - for one single matinee with a limited audience. In fact, the first completely uncensored production of The Awakening of Spring was not until a very highly praised production at the National Theatre in Britain in 1974, nearly seventy years after the play first premiered.
All of the controversy does not just attest to the piercing themes of The Awakening of Spring, but they also distinguish Wedekind as a dramatist, to being a man who was, indeed “ahead of his time.” In fact, it may be an understatement. Wedekind’s work was a precursor to several artistic movements of the era, from Expressionism to Modernism, and he is considered one of the founders of modern drama. Like Van Gogh in painting, Wedekind is synonymous with the Expressionist theatre movement, although not by definition an Expressionist artist. While Realism sought to recreate something as true to life as possible, and Impressionism’s goal was to create an individual perception of the subject, Expressionism’s intent was to proclaim the artist’s emotional experience with the subject, rather than the artist’s impressions of the external world.
Wedekind’s works, along with the work of August Strindberg and Oskar Kokoshka, are considered precursors to Expressionist theatre movement. Our particular production found great inspiration in the Expressionist elements of the musical, and seeks to find a fluid connection between the Expressionistic qualities of the music and the conflicted drive of the drama.
One of the Expressionist qualities of The Awakening of Spring that was never seen before was its episodic play structure. No scene directly follows the other; the play instead moves non-linearly, giving a general landscape of the world of the characters, reducing them to archetypes rather than three-dimensional characters so as not to focus on their individual struggles, but to identify the problems they face as a class, as young people in a rigid world. Along with his unique play structure and style, his overt political themes inspired many theatre artists to achieve new types of theatre and new implementation of old styles. Among the many artists who were influenced by Wedekind, Bertolt Brecht, founder of Epic Theater, cites him as his greatest inspiration; Brecht even attended Wedekind’s funeral. He wrote in his diary that Wedekind was, “a ringmaster in a red tail coat, carrying whip and revolver, and no one could forget that hard dry metallic voice, that brazen faun’s head with ‘eyes like a gloomy owl’ set in immobile features.”
All of these innovations led to the creation of Spring Awakening, which seeks to honor the structure, style, and messages of Wedekind’s original. First conceived in the 1997 at the Eugene O’Neill theater, lyricist and book writer Steven Sater wanted to create a musical adaptation of The Awakening of Spring, finding an operatic quality in the play he found worth cultivating. A few years after Sater and songwriter Duncan Sheik created some concept demo songs, much of which was cut or replaced, they quickly created a musical that would marry Wedekind’s poetic dialogue with modern, alternative rock music. The reverberations of Wedekind’s poetry is constantly heard in the lyrics, each song intermixed with anachronistic phrases. In Spring Awakening, the songs explode through the dialogue, and become the only opportunity for the characters to unleash their repressed thoughts and desires. The songs add on to Wedekind’s original play, amplifying the characters’ wants and their relationship to the world around them as they cry out to have their questions answered and longings quelled. And perhaps, in these songs, we may hear our own questions crying out.
The Brind School recently presented the premiere of a new play, Self:Same, by the Irish playwright Ciana ni Chuirc, directed by DPP senior Brey Ann Barrett, at Theatre Exile’s Studio X. This project was the fruit of a friendship that began during the semester that Brey spent at Trinity College Dublin, where she met Ciara and commissioned the script from her. The playwright (on the left in the picture below) wrote this brief reflection on her experience working with Brey (on the right) and the other Brind School students involved in bringing her play to life:
I was only in Philadelphia for a short time, but it strikes me as a great city for budding theatre-makers and artists. Working on Self:Same with Brey was a real pleasure, and it was lovely to do so in a city filled with so many supportive and talented people. Writing can be quite isolating, especially in Ireland, where we have a long history of brilliant writers who are noted for their solitude (Joyce, Synge, Beckett, Kavanagh, Yeats…and on and on). I don’t think isolation is always a bad thing, but I found collaborating with Brey, and with the cast and crew of Self:Same, to be a wonderful learning experience, and I certainly discovered more about the piece while watching it and listening to it than I did writing and re-writing it.
I believe one of the primary functions of theatre should be to bring people together; whether it be a character and an audience member, an actor and a director, or, as in my and Brey’s case, a director and a playwright. Theatre is at its best when it’s a living thing, and in working on Self:Same with Brey, I felt that the play was something that was growing and transforming as time moved along. Collaboration helps you become the best writer you can be, because it gives you the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them - when you know someone is going to be pointing out your errors, you become less obsessed with perfection the first time round.
Above, acting majors Sydney Wilson and Colin Fahey in a scene from the production.
Henson Foundation awards include Brind School faculty, alumni recipients
The newest round of grants from the Jim Henson Foundation has just been announced, and the Brind School is prominently featured among the recipients. Lone Wolf Tribe, a troupe founded by Brind School alum Kevin Augustine, is the recipient of a $5,000 project grant for “The God Projekt,” while Brind School faculty member will receive a $2,000 seed grant for “The Body Lautrec,” a new piece he is developing with Philly actress Mary Tuomanen. Cromie has taught puppet-making and puppet theater skills (as well as Neutral Mask and, currently, Clowning) for the Brind School, and his production of “The Blue Monster” (which he adapted and directed) was a highlight of our season three years ago. A Brooklyn-based artist, Augustine brought his work “Hobo Grunt Cycle” to the Arts Bank in Philadelphia two years ago, and his work as a master puppeteer includes engagements at the Metropolitan Opera House. Congrats, guys!
Below: images from “Hobo Grunt Cycle” and “The Blue Monster”
Great piece on Jen Childs, our distinguished (Silver Star Alumni award winner) alum and former faculty member, in the Daily News. The accompanying photo from the show she’s currently directing, “To Fool The Eye,” also features our head of Acting, David Howey, who appears in the show.
Pictured above: the cast of Crush with authors Stew and Yasmine Lever (center front)
A new musical featuring book and lyrics by Yasmine Lever and music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald will be one of the works featured in the second annual New Play Festival to be held at the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia early in 2013. The authors of a new play and a new musical will be in residence at the school for two weeks in January to develop their work, giving student actors and dramaturgs the opportunity to experience first-hand the process by which new work is developed. This year, the Brind School received nearly two hundred submissions for the festival, and Assistant Professor P. Seth Bauer and students in the Brind School’s Dramaturgy class reviewed the submissions and selected the finalists.
The musical CRUSH and the play A FRONTIER, AS TOLD BY THE FRONTIER will be the featured works in this season’s New Play Festival. CRUSH, a new musical with book and lyrics by Yasmine Lever and music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, is a star-crossed love story set against the backdrop of race riots in contemporary London. A FRONTIER, AS TOLD BY THE FRONTIER a play by Jason Gray Platt, is a dystopian fantasy about a group of four orphaned children and their caretaker, among the last bastion of a population torn by civil war, who inhabit an abandoned government-run theme park.
Public presentations of CRUSH will be presented on Friday February 1 at 7pm and Saturday February 2 at 3pm; A FRONTIER will be presented on Thursday January 31 and Saturday February 2 at 7pm. All performances will be held in the Philadelphia Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St., on the University of the Arts’ campus on the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia. Visit tickets.uarts.edu or call 215-717-6450 for reservations.
Program notes for our upcoming production (opening October 11), penned by our estimable theater historian, Dr. Mari Kathleen Fielder
Oxymoron: does the term apply to “free man of color”? In formulating America, two minds coexisted. One championed unilateral liberty. Jefferson declared, “All men are created equal.” The other condoned the economic practicality of human slavery based on race. Slaves, of course, ran Jefferson’s bucolic Monticello. The free man of color perched on the threshold between the two points of view, dangerous to both as living proof of the impossible contradiction.
John Guare’s 2010 drama Free Man of Color tackles the conundrum in a play within a play format. We meet Jacques Cornet, the son of a wealthy white father and a black mother, a prosperous businessman (of decorative wrought iron) in early nineteenth century Creole New Orleans. His father has set him free and deemed him his heir. Jacques has blossomed into a European-styled dandy, priding himself on extravagant style and wit. He is the very definition of entitlement – as well as self-absorption and self-importance. To memorialize himself, he is composing his own autobiographical drama.
Assistant Professor Seth Bauer’s play “Iphigenia” has just been featured in a new book by Dr. Helene Foley, Professor of Classics at Barnard/Columbia entitled REIMAGINING GREEK TRAGEDY ON THE AMERICAN STAGE. Seth says, “I did several interviews with her some years ago and she attended a production of my play in New York which opened on the day the US invaded Iraq. Like other New Yorkers, I was shocked that the tragedy of 9/11 could be used as grounds to wage war in another country; it was that frustration that led me to write my own adaptation of the Greek play.”
Director David O’Connor will be directing Seth’s version of “Iphigenia” at the Annenberg Center this fall, and Seth has been invited to join the ensemble and write some new work for them. Meanwhile, Seth is also developing an adaptation of “Lysistrata” for Simpatico Theater Company this fall. The Ancient Greeks continue to inspire many theater artists like Seth!
"The artists’ women suffer the sublime pain of coming second to their lovers’ genius, or watching their own talents consumed by a male-dominated world, where they’ll be remembered by history not for what they did, but for who they loved." - Annie Such’s new play, produced with a grant from the Brind School, closed this weekend at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
“UArts’ undergrad ensemble exceeds expectations with Lisa Dillman’s well-crafted drama about women coping with diagnoses of madness. Meaghan O’Hare fascinates as Carrie, a writer investigating historical atrocities represented by 1880s Jane (Mary Beth Shrader) and 1920s Alice (Tess Kunik), unfairly institutionalized by controlling men. She also copes with her mother’s (faculty actress D’Arcy Webb) mental illness, befriends unstable Lucy (Merri Rashoyan) and fears her own instability. Amy Feinberg’s has put together a smart, beautiful, involving production; Sarah Ganek’s terrific multilevel set is expertly lit by Rachel Sampley; and students give mature performances playing extremes that would challenge any professional actor.”
Playwright and DPP senior Haygen Walken talks with Philly Live Arts-Fringe blogger Megan McGlinchey about Barbie Blended, a new musical he’s writing that will be produced in the Fringe next month. Check it out!
Brind School alum Jackson Gay is the director of David Adjmi’s “3C,” currently running off-Broadway at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. The New York Post calls it the “most devisive and controversial play in NYC.” Read some reactions from the playwright and director here.
Johnnie Hobbs, Jr., Associate Professor of Acting in the Brind School, provides these notes on a recent collaboration between the University of the Arts and the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). This “Phillypool” international interdisciplinary collaboration project is now in its third year.
The LIPA visit to Philadelphia took place Friday, April 6 - 15, 2012. At the conclusion of the LIPA ten day International Interdisciplinary visit to the University of the Arts, the anticipation of our trip to Liverpool, UK to further our investigation of devised work became a palpable thing, All of the sessions in Philadelphia under the primary leadership of LIPA faculty members, Stephen Buckwald and Brendon Burns, generated a great deal of excitement and at the same time presented the challenge of both groups’ desire to integrate the diverse disciplines assembled for the project. The disciplines included: Animation, Musical Composition, Choreography, Communications, Graphic Design, Live Instrumentation, Movement, Multi-Media and Theater.
Arriving in Liverpool, UK May 18, 2012, Evan Solot and I developed a schedule of sessions that created the opportunity for ensemble development as well as smaller collaborative experiences. Once again, we utilized the rich resources of the TATE Modern Art Museum in Liverpool. The students were inspired on a number of levels after the TATE visit.
What was particularly successful about this year’s collaboration was both groups’ ability to continue work approached in Philadelphia which became a central theme for our work in progress: “Individualism”. During the project “Individualism”, the subject matter evoked many different and unique responses from everyone which complicated our ability to conceptualize and use all of the skill sets. Eighteen artists persevered and the work was presented May 25, 2012 under working title ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN… It was a complete success. From Mosaic Animation to marching, from original music cues to computer graphics, we presented devised work that represented two institutions, The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and The University of the Arts. Our goal was to challenge and to interact with each other - to ask the hard questions and as artist to seek and share answers.