Tag Archive for theater

Jenkins Celebrates Indonesia’s Cultural, Linguistic Diversity in International Simulcast

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, will participate in an international simulcast on Nov. 27 to celebrate Balinese language and Indonesia’s cultural and linguistic diversity.

The simulcast will take place at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington where Jenkins will be helping to celebrate Saraswati Day by reading from his new book, Saraswati in Bali. Saraswati Day is the Balinese day set aside for honoring wisdom, knowledge and culture.

The celebration will be streamed simultaneously to Indonesian diplomatic missions in New York, Tokyo, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Australia.

The program also will include live simulcasts of a reading of a Balinese poem; greetings from Indonesian Ambassadors to the participating countries; introductory remarks from Professor Gabriela Perez Baez, director of Recovering Voices, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; a presentation of new books in Balinese; and dance, music and singing performances.

Jenkins will also be speaking about his book at the Indonesian Consulate in New York on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at an event featuring an exhibition of the Balinese paintings related to Saraswati analyzed in his text. To register for the free event, e-mail information@indonesianewyork.org.

Weild Directs New Musical, Indian Joe

indianjoeA new musical, directed by visiting associate professor of theater Kim Weild, runs Oct. 22-Nov. 15 at the Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Conn.

Inspired by true events, Indian Joe tells the unlikely story of a homeless Native American and a Texas beauty queen who never should have been friends. He’s looking for a fight. She’s looking for a cause. As they stumble toward friendship, both ultimately overcome fear and prejudice to discover that there’s more to family than what you see. From the streets of Waco, Texas to the streets of New York City, it’s a uniquely American story with a progressive Americana beat.

Elizabeth A. Davis will play the character Liz. Davis received a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for the hit Broadway production of Once.

At Wesleyan, Weild teaches Introduction to Directing, Directed Experiences in Acting and Performance Practice A.

For more information on the musical, see this Middletown Press article or this Broadwayworld.com feature.

Ron Jenkins Discusses Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins participated in a discussion on WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show about Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” of which “Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section. This adventure story is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Jenkins has taught Dante at Wesleyan and in prison courses.

“I discovered that I could learn a lot about Dante by teaching it in prison. I brought my Wesleyan students and my Yale students into prison to work with him,” said Jenkins. “I discovered that a lot of stereotypes are shattered by going into a prison with a text like that because although the commonplace understanding of Dante is a writer who writes about hell and awful, horrible things, the men in prison immediately understood that this was a poem about hope. They immediately identified with Dante. One of the reasons they identified with Dante is he was not only in exile, but he was a convict. He was convicted of crimes, that’s why he was put in exile. As soon as men in prison hear that, they pay attention more closely. […] They identify with Dante’s journey through hell, through purgatory, to a better place, and they can connect to that. They latch onto the hope that’s in Dante’s poem. […] They want to think about where they can go when they leave prison, if they can leave prison, or where they can go spiritually even if they can never leave prison.”

 

Tatinge Nascimento Co-Edits Theater Volume on Brazilian Dramaturgy

Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, associate professor of theater, is the guest co-editor of Theater, Volume 45, Number 2, published in 2015. The topic is Brazilian contemporary dramaturgy. The volume contains four Brazilian contemporary plays, translated by Elizabeth Jackson, visiting assistant professor of Portuguese at Wesleyan, accompanied by four introductory essays. 

The volume, edited by Yale University and published by Duke University Press, is the first collection of Brazilian plays published in the United States since 1988.

In addition, Tatinge Nascimento is the author of an essay titled “Subversive Cannibals: Notes on Contemporary Theater in Brazil, the Other Latin America” published in the same Theater edition, pages 5-21.

In this article, Tatinge Nascimento discusses Brazilian contemporary theater with a focus on the works of playwrights Dib Carneiro Neto, Newton Moreno, Jô Bilac and Diogo Liberano. She provides an introduction to the country’s current cultural and political climate, the influence of Oswald de Andrade’s “Cannibalist Manifesto” on contemporary Brazilian artists, and how the English-speaking world’s relative ignorance of this country positions it as the “other Latin America.”

Jenkins Profiles a Popular and Provocative Puppet Master

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins writes in The Jakarta Post about Wayan Nardayana, a popular and provocative puppet master in Bali who “combines the political insight of a social activist with the spiritual wisdom of a priest and the comic instincts of a master entertainer.”

Jenkins describes the artist’s recent performance at a celebration of the birthday of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. “The dalang’s ability to make connections between sacred texts, Indonesian history and contemporary reality is at the core of his art,” Jenkins writes.

Nardayana tells the audience, “Indonesians today can also harness the power of their ancestors to inspire them to take the actions to make their country as strong as the other great nations of the world. Sukarno is one of those ancestors and remembering him is one way our generation can preserve our cultural identity and use it to take the actions necessary to create freedom today.”

Jenkins Explores Bali’s Saraswati Ritual in New Book

New book by Ron Jenkins.

New book by Ron Jenkins.

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is the author of a new book titled Saraswati in Bali: a Temple, a Museum and a Mask, published by the Agung Rai Museum of Art, Peliatan, Ubud, Bali, in July 2014.

Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, through whom the Balinese symbolically link their tangible (sekala) and intangible (niskala) worlds. The Balinese celebrate Saraswati at an annual festival.

In a July 7 Jakarta Post article, contributing writer Jean Couteau explains that instead of trying to “understand” Bali like anthropologists would, “often reifying it or losing themselves in abstruse concepts of dubious ‘universalist’ value, Jenkins presents it ‘in action.’

In Saraswati in Bali, Jenkins explores the festival as a “performance” or ritual in motion. Jenkins explains how local Balinese express their collective wisdom through ceremonies, and their understanding through active participation in communal song, prayers and ritual preparations.

He also explains the relation of several paintings to the story of Saraswati and the esoteric Balinese knowledge associated with it.

“Jenkins’ purpose is not to conceptualize, but to ‘bring to life,’ which is obviously to him a more efficient way to cross the cultural barrier that separates modern people from traditional Balinese,” Couteau writes.

View a PDF of The Jakara Post story here.

Shaw ’99 Featured in Book on Black Theater and Dance in Chicago

Rashida Shaw '99

Rashida Shaw ’99

Assistant Professor of Theater Rashida Shaw ‘99 shared her observations as a researcher, ethnographer and audience member who has attended urban theater productions in Chicago for a chapter in a book called Black Theater Is Black Life: An Oral History of Chicago Theater and Dance, 1970-2010, written by Harvey Young and Queen Meccasia Zabriskie, and published in November 2013 by Northwestern University Press.

It features interviews with producers, directors, choreographers, designers, dancers, and actors, and serves to frame the colorful four-decade period for the African American artistic community in the Windy City.

Jenkins Article on African-American, Balinese Chants in Jakarta Post

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, is the author of an article titled, “African-American Step Dancing meets Balinese “kecak'” published in the March 6 edition of The Jakarta Post. The article highlights a cross-cultural theater collaboration that brought together African-American step-dancers and Balinese “kecak” performers who create interlocking rhythms with choral chants. Jenkins wrote the article while in Pengosekan Village, Indonesia doing sabbatical research. Read the article here.
Jenkins also wrote a book review titled, “Illuminating: The Enigma of Time,” which appeared in the Feb. 24 edition of The Jakarta Post. The book, Time, Rites and Festivals in Bali, is written by Gusti Nyoman Darta, Jean Couteau and Georges Breguet and published by BAB Publishing Indonesia in 2014.

“The reader can get lost for several pages in the flow of its prose recounting a mythical fable, or stop to savor an enigmatic reference to a ‘web of meaning according to which the distinction between people and rice is blurred,'” Jenkins wrote. Read the article here.

 

Richards ’69 Co-Produces Bridges of Madison County Musical and More

Jeffrey Richards '69

Jeffrey Richards ’69

The ever-busy Jeffrey Richards ’69 is the co-producer of a new musical The Bridges of Madison County, based on the hugely popular novel by Robert James Waller, which opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway on February 20. The musical stars acclaimed actors Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It, South Pacific) and Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) with a score by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade), a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman (The Secret Garden, ‘Night, Mother), and direction by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza).

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in The Bridges of Madison Country musical on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale in The Bridges of Madison Country musical on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The musical focuses on a four-day love affair between an itinerant National Geographic photographer and an Italian-American housewife, whose husband and children are away at a state fair, in 1965 Iowa. The highly romantic and often transcendent score allows the O’Hara and Pasquale to shine, particularly in two of their memorable duets, “Falling Into You” and “One Second and a Million Miles.” Sher’s deft direction avoids sentimentality but touches on the expression of loneliness and need for deeper connection by the characters.

The Bridges of Madison Country opened to generally positive reviews with praise for the leading actors’ performances and the songs.

Jesse Green in his New York Magazine review wrote that the show is “a very serious musical indeed, both rapturous and moral, with a gorgeous score by Jason Robert Brown. It is also one of the few recent Broadway shows to take up the challenge laid down by the great midcentury works of Rodgers and Hammerstein and their cohort: to tell stories that weld important sociological upheavals to personal conflicts and somehow make them sing.”

In Time Out New York, Adam Feldman wrote: “The musical’s emotion is unapologetically grand, and its love duets have a wide, old-fashioned scope. Directed with spare precision by Bartlett Sher—reunited with his most of his South Pacific design team—it’s a new work that plays like a classic. … The night, however, belongs to its stars. Singing mostly in her luxurious upper register, O’Hara sounds ravishing, and she and Pasquale—in the performance of his career—generate that rarest of Broadway commodities: a genuine spark of erotic heat.”

For tickets, go to Telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.

This Broadway season, Jeffrey Richards also is the co-producer of recent revival The Glass Menagerie, which just finished its successful Broadway run, recouping its investment; and the upcoming Broadway productions of two new plays, All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as President Lyndon B. Johnson (currently in previews, opens  March 6 at the Neil Simon Theatre), and The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno, an insightful comedy-drama about friends and neighbors, with Emmy Award winner Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under), Tony Award winner Tracy Letts, and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (previews begin March 13, opens April 6 at the Lyceum Theatre), as well as Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a play with music by Lanie Robertson, starring five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald as the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday (previews begin March 25, opening April 13 at Circle in the Square Theatre). Richards also co-produced the Tony Award-winning revival of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which is currently on a national tour.

Newell ’81 Receives Theater Award

Charles Newell '81

Charles Newell ’81

Charles Newell ’81 was recently awarded the prestigious Zelda Fichandler Award, which recognizes an outstanding director who is transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in theater. He received the prize, an unrestricted grant of $5,000, from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF).

Over the years, Newell has become one of the nation’s foremost theater directors. He is currently in his 19th year as artistic director of the Court Theatre, the renowned professional theater in residence at University of Chicago, where he had directed more than 40 productions.

Newell comments: “To receive The Zelda Fichandler Award from SDCF means the world to me. My very first theatre-going memories are of my mother taking me to Zelda’s Arena Stage. The daring theatre she created and produced, the singular artists she championed, the impact her art made on her community: these all have been a beacon of inspiration to me.  For twenty years, I have been fortunate to build a life in the theatre here in Chicago, seeking to follow Zelda’s example. I am very proud to be a member of this most vibrant theatre community, and am constantly inspired by our artists and patrons.”

Newell has been critically acclaimed for his intimate stagings of great American musicals, and his visionary work as a director has led to a notable professional relationship with playwright Tony Kushner (with whom Newell is currently working on an undisclosed commission for a new play). Under his artistic leadership, the Court Theatre has become the national “Center for Classic Theater,” and as such has produced several world premiere adaptations of classic novels, including The Invisible Man and the upcoming, highly-anticipated stage adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son in collaboration with American Blues Theater.

In May through June for the Court, Newell will be directing David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly. He made his Chicago directorial debut in 1993 with The Triumph of Love, which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. His productions of Man of La Mancha and Caroline, Or Change have also won Best Production Jeffs. His other directorial highlights at the Court include Angels In America, An Iliad, Porgy and Bess, Three Tall Woman, The Year of Magical Thinking, The Wild Duck, Arcadia, Uncle Vanya, Raisin, The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Invention of Love, and Hamlet. He has also directed at Goodman Theatre (Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘N Roll), Guthrie Theater (resident director: The History Cycle, Cymbeline), Arena Stage, John Houseman’s The Acting Company (staff repertory director), the California and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals, Juilliard, and New York University.

Newell is married to actress Kate Collins (All My Children) and they live in Chicago with their two sons. While at Wesleyan, he was roommates with classmate Bradley Whitford ’81 (The West Wing; Trophy Wife) and the two are still good friends. He was also classmates with Pamela Tatge ‘84, director of of Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts.

Wasson ’03 Writes Biography of Entertainment Icon Bob Fosse

Sam Wasson '03

Sam Wasson ’03

Best-selling author Sam Wasson ’03 has published Fosse (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), an authoritative and fascinating biography of the renowned dancer, choreographer, screenwriter, and director Bob Fosse. The only person ever to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards in the same year, Fosse was a masterful artist in every entertainment medium he touched, and forever marked Broadway and Hollywood with his iconic style that would influence generations of performing artists.

Biography by Sam Wasson '03

Biography by Sam Wasson ’03

Wasson reveals the man behind the swaggering sex appeal by exploring Fosse’s reinventions of himself over a career that would result in his work on The Pajama Game, Pippin, Sweet Charity, the film Cabaret, All That Jazz, and the original Broadway production of Chicago. The author researched a wealth of unpublished material and hundreds of sources including friends, enemies, lovers, and collaborators, many of whom have never spoken publicly about Fosse before. He touches on Fosse’s prodigious professional life and also on his close and conflicted relationships with everyone from Liza Minnelli to Ann Reinking to Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman.

Wasson captures a man who was never satisfied with his achievements and lived an offstage life full of turmoil. He uncovers the deep wounds that encouraged Fosse’s insatiable appetites for spotlights, women, and life itself.

In her review of Fosse in The New York Times, Janet Maslin writes: “Mr. Wasson is a smart and savvy reporter, and his book abounds with colorful firsthand tales. … Whoever Fosse was and whatever his work meant, Mr. Wasson’s book is required reading for anyone eager to understand his brand of — to use a term that appears here constantly, and can’t be outdone — razzle-dazzle. And to see through his darkness.”

Wasson is also the author of The New York Times best seller Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman and two books published by Wesleyan University Press, A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies of Blake Edwards and Paul on Mazursky.