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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: theater, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 119
1. DECEMBER UPDATE!

December is here and there's lots to talk about, including an appearance and exciting new stuff! BOOKS! Elephant and Piggie's WAITING IS NOT EASY! came out last month and the response has been nice.  Thanks to you, the story debuted at #2 on The New York Times Bestseller List. (Not to be left out, THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH! joined Waiting is Not Easy! on the next 2 weeks). The New York Times

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2. Reflections on the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of The Death of Klinghoffer

The question is not whether it was appropriate for the Metropolitan Opera to stage this important and controversial piece, but rather, did they do it right? Did they mount it so that its poetic, dramatic and musical potential was well realized?

The challenge is great. Poet Alice Goodman’s libretto operates on multiple levels. Using poetic imagery, she not only explores the stories of the individual characters and some elements of the complex relationship between Jews and Palestinians but also larger human dilemmas. She sets the specifics in the context of the elements: earth (desert), water (ocean) and the sun (which effectively burns with fierce intensity throughout much of the second act of this production.)

The director, Tom Morris, has added the plant kingdom. Building on the Exiled Jews’ line, “the forest planted in memory,” he has the chorus bring on a small forest of young saplings – many of which are produced from large trunks. In so doing, he adds additional layers of meaning and memory – both that of the reforestation of Israel, but also that of the baggage of refugees everywhere, and specifically of the luggage lugged with false hopes to the camps.

It is at once a piece recalled in memory and an evocation of a present reality. As a memory piece Goodman does not need to tell the story sequentially and is free to present the events from multiple perspectives.

Here, too, Morris and his set designer, Tom Pye, have effectively amplified the libretto. By manipulating the set pieces they show us the killing of Klinghoffer first from the back and then from the front – vividly embodying different views. They also chose to portray the moment when Omar, a young terrorist, shoots – shifting our perspective in a different way. It effectively destroys any sympathy that we might have developed for him in his earlier aria/dance.

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Metropolitan Opera House, by Niall Kennedy. CC-BY-NC-2.0 via Flickr.

The success of this production stands on three pillars. One is the strong and subtle conducting of David Robertson. A second is the casting. The singing was uniformly excellent and the principals were believable. Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer (Alan Opie & Michaela Martens) presented a particularly interesting casting challenge, since it is crucial that their voices are beautiful and yet have an appropriately mature timbre. Both these demands were satisfyingly met. The third pillar of the success lies in the decision to reject the more abstract and cerebral approach taken in the original productions and to ground the work in particular and recognizable locales with the performers costumed in character-appropriate clothes.

The production team also chose not to represent Leon and Marilyn with dance doubles as was originally done, which increased our ability to empathize with their suffering. The convention was, however, retained for Omar. His is a mute role but for one major aria in which the piece takes the irredeemable step from threat to murder. The aria was sung by a woman in a dark burqa. However, she was not alone with him. On a receding diagonal behind her stood a line of identically dressed women evoking generations of tradition handed from mother to son. As she sang, Omar went through painful convulsions–of indecision? of fear? After the aria, he began his fateful walk towards Klinghoffer, gun in hand.

The set established three different locales – the first two were fluid and sometimes simultaneous. One was a lecture hall (or theater) represented by a lectern stage left; the other was the cruise ship, Achille Lauro, represented by railing pieces, deck chairs and by two moveable double-level ship’s deck units. When the Captain lies to the authorities about the violence onboard, the lectern becomes integrated with the ship as a stand for the phone. This choice effectively forces him to move out of memory to re-living one of his most painful choices during the high-jacking.

The final scene, in which the Captain admits to Marilyn that the terrorists have killed her husband, has a setting all its own. Inexorably, two giant panels close in – reducing the stage to a triangular space empty but for a single chair. Are we in the ship’s hold? Are we in a truth chamber or one of horrors? We don’t know, but it is a formidable and unforgiving space. And, indeed, neither the Captain nor Marilyn can escape.

Over a period of two dozen years, the director Peter Sellars brought together the team of John Adams and Alice Goodman to co-create three vitally important works: Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) and Dr. Atomic (2005). All are based on recent events with profound implications for our times. All three are oratorio-like. The stories are dramatic but their form is static. And yet we are drawn to these pieces. Confronted by the issues they embody – as we are in our media, our wallets and in the political choices made by our leaders, do we cry out for a distanced format? Do we seek a cool presentation that gives us time to review and reflect? Surely. And yet, in these quasi-operas, I miss the visceral excitement generated by works in which conflicts between unique individuals are directly portrayed in singing and acting. For me, the success of the Met’s production of The Death of Klinghoffer is that it restores some of this urgency, vitality and feeling.

Headline image credit: Full House at the Metropolitan Opera. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Reflections on the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of The Death of Klinghoffer appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Illuminating the drama of DNA: creating a stage for inquiry

Many bioethical challenges surround the promise of genomic technology and the power of genomic information — providing a rich context for critically exploring underlying bioethical traditions and foundations, as well as the practice of multidisciplinary advisory committees and collaborations. Controversial issues abound that call into question the core values and assumptions inherent in bioethics analysis and thus necessitates interprofessional inquiry. Consequently, the teaching of genomics and contemporary bioethics provides an opportunity to re-examine our disciplines’ underpinnings by casting light on the implications of genomics with novel approaches to address thorny issues — such as determining whether, what, to whom, when, and how genomic information, including “incidental” findings, should be discovered and disclosed to individuals and their families, and whose voice matters in making these determinations particularly when children are involved.

One creative approach we developed is narrative genomics using drama with provocative characters and dialogue as an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach to bring to life the diverse voices, varied contexts, and complex processes that encompass the nascent field of genomics as it evolves from research to clinical practice. This creative educational technique focuses on inherent challenges currently posed by the comprehensive interrogation and analysis of DNA through sequencing the human genome with next generation technologies and illuminates bioethical issues, providing a stage to reflect on the controversies together, and temper the sometimes contentious debates that ensue.

As a bioethics teaching method, narrative genomics highlights the breadth of individuals affected by next-gen technologies — the conversations among professionals and families — bringing to life the spectrum of emotions and challenges that envelope genomics. Recent controversies over genomic sequencing in children and consent issues have brought fundamental ethical theses to the stage to be re-examined, further fueling our belief in drama as an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach to explore how society evaluates, processes, and shares genomic information that may implicate future generations. With a mutual interest in enhancing dialogue and understanding about the multi-faceted implications raised by generating and sharing vast amounts of genomic information, and with diverse backgrounds in bioethics, policy, psychology, genetics, law, health humanities, and neuroscience, we have been collaboratively weaving dramatic narratives to enhance the bioethics educational experience within varied professional contexts and a wide range of academic levels to foster interprofessionalism.

1024px-A-DNA,_B-DNA_and_Z-DNA
From left to right, the structures of A-, B-, and Z-DNA by Zephyris (Richard Wheeler). CC-BY-SA-3.0 from Wikimedia Commons.

Dramatizations of fictionalized individual, familial, and professional relationships that surround the ethical landscape of genomics create the potential to stimulate bioethical reflection and new perceptions amongst “actors” and the audience, sparking the moral imagination through the lens of others. By casting light on all “the storytellers” and the complexity of implications inherent with this powerful technology, dramatic narratives create vivid scenarios through which to imagine the challenges faced on the genomic path ahead, critique the application of bioethical traditions in context, and re-imagine alternative paradigms.

Building upon the legacy of using case vignettes as a clinical teaching modality, and inspired by “readers’ theater”, “narrative medicine,” and “narrative ethics” as approaches that helped us expand the analyses to implications of genomic technologies, our experience suggests similar value for bioethics education within the translational research and public policy domain. While drama has often been utilized in academic and medical settings to facilitate empathy and spotlight ethical and legal controversies such as end-of-life issues and health law, to date there appears to be few dramatizations focusing on next-generation sequencing (NGS) in genomic research and medicine.

We initially collaborated on the creation of a short vignette play in the context of genomic research and the informed consent process that was performed at the NHGRI-ELSI Congress by a geneticist, genetic counselor, bioethicists, and other conference attendees. The response by “actors” and audience fueled us to write many more plays of varying lengths on different ethical and genomic issues, as well as to explore the dialogues of existing theater with genetic and genomic themes — all to be presented and reflected upon by interdisciplinary professionals in the bioethics and genomics community at professional society meetings and academic medical institutions nationally and internationally.

Because narrative genomics is a pedagogical approach intended to facilitate discourse, as well as provide reflection on the interrelatedness of the cross-disciplinary issues posed, we ground our genomic plays in current scholarship and ensure that it is accurate scientifically as well as provide extensive references and pose focused bioethics questions which can complement and enhance the classroom experience.

In a similar vein, bioethical controversies can also be brought to life with this approach where bioethics reaching incorporates dramatizations and excerpts from existing theatrical narratives, whether to highlight bioethics issues thematically, or to illuminate the historical path to the genomics revolution and other medical innovations from an ethical perspective.

Varying iterations of these dramatic narratives have been experienced (read, enacted, witnessed) by bioethicists, policy makers, geneticists, genetic counselors, other healthcare professionals, basic scientists, bioethicists, lawyers, patient advocates, and students to enhance insight and facilitate interdisciplinary and interprofessional dialogue.

Dramatizations embedded in genomic narratives illuminate the human dimensions and complexity of interactions among family members, medical professionals, and others in the scientific community. By facilitating discourse and raising more questions than answers on difficult issues, narrative genomics links the promise and concerns of next-gen technologies with a creative bioethics pedagogical approach for learning from one another.

Heading image: Andrzej Joachimiak and colleagues at Argonne’s Midwest Center for Structural Genomics deposited the consortium’s 1,000th protein structure into the Protein Data Bank. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Illuminating the drama of DNA: creating a stage for inquiry appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. OCTOBER UPDATE!

UPCOMING! November 4th, 2014 will see the release of Elephant and Piggie's newest adventure, WAITING IS NOT EASY! It sure isn't.  So.... APPEARANCES! Because waiting really, really is not easy, I'll be giving a sneak peek reading and signing of the new Elephant and Piggie adventure 2 days early! DON'T WAIT! Come on by: Sunday, November 2nd at the ERIC CARLE MUSEUM OF PICTURE

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5. NYC WEEKEND

I've decided to get back to using my blog as a means to chronicle and remember noteworthy happenings since it is not likely to be used for posting illustrations anytime soon. Though I may be taking a break from that side of my life, I am still spending my days doing things that keep my imagination going. This weekend's trip to NYC was certainly an extension of that. Knee-deep in my YA sci-fi book project, I've been listening to a plethora of science podcasts of late, including my favorite, StarTalk Radio, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Each time Neil introduces his show, he makes mention of being the director of the Hayden Planetarium---and after listening to dozens of shows (and thus dozens of intros) my already strong inclination to visit was catalysed into action. I've loved planetariums since I was a kid, and my best friend lives in Manhattan, so BAM. Finally made it happen. Adam and I arrived in the city Saturday afternoon, and planned our trip to the American Museum of Natural History for Sunday.

Yet Saturday was not without inspiring time of its own. Even just riding the commuter rail into the city gets my brain stirring. There's something deeply moving to me about watching the dilapidated buildings pass by on the train...especially when contrasted against the periodic splash of much nicer, upscale areas. The divide between wealth and poverty is a theme making its way into my story...so even an otherwise dull train ride became a useful piece of my weekend.

Saturday was lovely outside and included some walking around Central Park before getting dinner and heading to Broadway. We had tickets to see The Cripple of Inishmaan, a revival (and first time on Broadway) of Martin McDonagh's dark comedy featuring Daniel Radcliffe. The Gamm Theatre put on The Beauty Queen of Leenane just last season and I loved it, so I was primed for another McDonagh play - especially given the chance to also see Mr. Radcliffe's return to Broadway after missing him in How to Succeed.

Our seats were up pretty high in the balcony section so while they didn't offer up close views of the actors, it was still a great view of the stage. The set was beautiful and absolutely deserving of its recent Tony nomination. From our seats, we viewed the set at an almost isometric perspective, which made me appreciate the triangular, rotating stage piece even more. The play itself was quite funny with darker moments of sadness you'd expect from Martin McDonagh. What I hadn't anticipated was the overall sweetness the play would have. It was a crowd pleaser...less controversial perhaps than some of his other plays, and I have to admit I appreciated the moments of tenderness and humor.




Theater is quickly becoming another favorite form of storytelling. It's magical and bizarre and quite wonderful to watch a story unfold live before your eyes...your imagination carried away by actors becoming their characters, sets becoming a new place you've never been to, and the smallest of lighting cues creating an entirely different atmosphere, be it inside a village shop bathed in the beautiful golden glow of morning, or a bluish moonlit night by the sea. I'm always so charmed by the mileage simple theatrics get with such minimalism.

And I know Dan Radcliffe is the money-making draw for the show, but ALL the actors were excellent and well-worth attending for in their own right (I loved the aunties in particular). A great show. I really enjoyed it.

....now on to Sunday!




I've never been to the American Museum of Natural History before and was super impressed with the place. It's huge! We barely dipped our toes in the wealth of information there. Admittedly I was mostly there to see the planetarium show, Dark Universe, and to check out the fossils and dinosaurs (Adam's favorite).
I LOVE PLANETARIUMS. Did I mention that already? Because I seriously LOVE planetariums. I wish I could sit in there all day long, day after day, watching every show they've made in the last few years on repeat. Because how can you not be blown away with how far our technology has come to allowing us to visualize and communicate this kind of information in such an accessible, inspiring way?! Dark Universe succeed at precisely that. Seeing the idea of red shift/universe expansion was awesome. Visualizing dark matter was fascinating. Thanks to pieces like this and the updated Cosmos series, my appreciation for science communicators and visualizers has multiplied exponentially.

Man, I LOVE PLANETARIUMS. Its like being on a rocket ship roller coaster ride through the universe. I can't get enough. Certainly not in only 25 minutes. But I guess that just means I'll be coming back again!



We were able to spend a bit of time breezing through other areas but truthfully we'd need to really take more time in each exhibit in order to not feel overwhelmed. Fortunately we did see the blue whale room, which was SO COOL. My husband and I had a fascination and appreciation for the dioramas that border the room. They were beautifully painted, sculpted, executed, what have you. An amazing example of many separate creative processes coming together for stunning results. I don't know who makes those things, but I'm sure glad they do.


It's funny to me...being at a museum. There's so much information inside, yet there are so many limitations to realistically appreciating and absorbing that knowledge. First of all, just walking around a place so large is exhausting. You start thinking about how much your feet hurt and less about what you're experiencing. Then before you know it you have to pee (so you waste time hunting for a bathroom). Or you get hungry so you have to stop to snack. Most of us breeze through museums without even scratching the surface. And from what I saw, if you bring kids, it's even worse. They don't have the attention span to read the information, they just want to run around, pressing buttons on exhibits or spinning the things that spin or turning the things that turn. I found myself imagining us museum visitors as aliens on planet Zorba, visiting the Museum of Zorban History...mommy and daddy aliens lugging around cumbersome strollers while kids whined about being bored. Here is an amazing place, a vast wealth of information cultivated by centuries worth of Zorban intellect and discovery. And yet there we are, modern day Zorban idiots staring thoughtlessly at the exhibits, wondering if they sell dehydrated astronaut ice cream in the museum gift shop (neapolitan, not that ice cream sandwich crap).

There are so many chances for us normal (aka not super intellectual) humans (or Zorbans) to learn new things that I find it deeply tragic how pedestrian we can be...

* * * * * * * * * *
I think the best part of this past year has been reconnecting to my own curiosity. It's not so much that I stopped being a curious person, it's just that I suffered from a fear of information overload. Let's face it: there's a lot about everything that I don't understand. Old me tried to hide from that fact so I didn't have to think about how ignorant and stupid I am. But new me embraces the idea that there is so much out there to learn. Even if the majority of it goes well above my head, it still seems like the only quest worth taking. I've always had a deeply rooted fear and fascination with space in particular --seeing Apollo 13, trips to air shows, and the Air & Space Museum as a kid enhanced a natural attraction to the topic. It's always been in the back of my head as a subject area. But for the last 20 years or so it hasn't had a way to come back into my life. Now age 29, I have the luxury of time and freedom to learn (at my own pace) about areas that truly get down deep and move me. Space and space exploration seem like the only things that matter in some ways... I get sad thinking that within my lifetime we may not make as much progress as I would like to see---certainly not as much as I thought we'd make when I was a child. I hope big things do happen. I hope big answers are pursued, and I hope we get some amazing returns on our investments. Even if I'm just a nobody artist/writer with no scientific background, I can appreciate what space means to me as a human being. I may never be an astronaut or a scientist or an engineer, but that doesn't mean I can't live vicariously and reap the rewards of the people who are out there doing amazing things---and adding to the wealth of knowledge for which all humans can be grateful.

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6. The Divine Sarah

This past January I had the pleasure of creating images for the Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s season brochure—this time for the world premiere of L’Hôtel, a new comedy by Ed Dixon. The cast of characters is 6 stars from the recent and distant past. Art Director Paul Schifino asked me to create stand-alone caricatures of 3 of them: Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt. Here are sketches, painting-in-progress and the finished art of the Divine Sarah.

By the way, this painting and two others will be on display at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni Show which opens this Friday evening.

bernhardt.gesture.1 bernhardt.gesture.3 bernhardt.gesture.2 bernhardt.sk IMGP1980 IMGP1981 IMGP1982 IMGP1983 IMGP1984 IMGP1985 IMGP1986 IMGP1987 IMGP1988 IMGP1989 IMGP1990 IMGP1991 IMGP1992 IMGP1993 IMGP1994 Sarah 400

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7. Disney’s ‘Aladdin’: The Broadway Musical vs. The Animated Film

After three years of tryouts and short runs in a total of four different cities, Disney Theatrical’s version of "Aladdin" finally opened on Broadway March 20th at the New Amsterdam Theatre. So now that it's here, how does it compare to the animated "Aladdin" we all know and love? After seeing the musical a few days ago, here are my observations.

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8. APRIL UPDATE!

BIRDth-DAY! April 1st marks the 11th anniversary of the publication of my first book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Because of the support of Librarians, Teachers, Parents, Grand-Parents, and Fans the last 11 years have been a wonderful ride filled with opportunities for me to write, draw, and meet fantastic kids and grown-ups all over the world. Thank you for this gift.

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9. Mo' Theater: Chicago, NYC, & Bahrain!

There are 3 theater events based on my books on two ends of the planet coming up in the next few weeks. Starting this weekend ( March 17th) and running until the first weekend in May, Chicago's Lifeline Theatre will be presenting their version of NAKED MOLE RAT GETS DRESSED on the weekends. (Wonder what the Dress Rehearsal will be like! Tee Hee.)  Check it out, and be sure to bring

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10. Theater Talkback: Frank Langella Telling Tales

In his terrific new memoir, Frank Langella reflects on the "impermanence" of the actor's life.

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11. KNUFFLE BUNNY MUSICAL in SAN ANTONIO!

San Antonio's  Magik Theatre begins a run of it's production of KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL next week on Friday May, 11th.  The show will run through June 16th. If you're in area, I hope you get a chance to see the show, and I hope you enjoy it. Tickets and info are here! And if you're in Everett, WA on this Sunday, May 6th, the Village Theatre is running "Fancy Nancy & Other

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12. KNUFFLE BUNNY MUSICAL in CAPE COD!

If you're planning to spend some time in Cape Cod this Summer, why not visit the Cape Cod Rep on Wed. or Thursday mornings for a performance of KNUFFLE BUNNY A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL? The performances begin next week (June 27) and run through August 30th! Details are here! Enjoy the show.

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13. KNUFFLE BUNNY MUSICAL in Buffalo, NY!

The fine folks over at the Theatre of Youth are putting on a production of KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL at the Allendale Theater in Buffalo, NY. The show opens September 13th and runs through October 14th. Don't miss the action! The drama! The over-sized laundry! Speaking of Buffalo, NY, The Buffalo News likes the just published GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS, saying new

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14. KNUFFLE BUNNY MUSICAL in Lindenhurst, NY

KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL begins a 4 week run at the Studio Theatre of Lindenhurst on Saturday, September 22nd! Don't miss the action! The drama! The over-sized laundry!

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15. KNUFFLE BUNNY MUSICAL in LAFAYETTE, INDIANA this weekend!

The Civic Theater of Lafayette Indiana is mounting a production of KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL that runs from Feb. 15th - 17th.  If you're in the area, don't miss: The Music! The Laughs! The Laundry! Details are here.

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16. Elephant & Piggie's WE ARE IN A PLAY!

Yesterday, the Kennedy Center announced their upcoming season which includes a new comission, Elephant and Piggie's WE ARE IN A PLAY! I've been working and writing on the piece for almost a year now in semi-secrecy. The team during our first workshop at Knuffle Manor in May of 2012. That's me, composer Deborah Wicks La Puma, KC big wig Kim Kovac, and dramaturg Megan Alrutz. Deborah

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17. KNUFFLE BUNNY MUSICAL in Colorado Springs!

The Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs will be presenting a production of KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL this month. The performances run from March 21st through March 31st. Don't miss the drama! The action!  The laundry! & tell 'em Mo sent ya!

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18. KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL in Berkley, CA & Columbia, SC

The Bay Area Children's Theater begins its 5 week run of KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL Saturday, April 13th. They say: Prepare for the clothes to fly in this musical version of the hilarious picture book about the adventures of toddler Trixie and her beloved stuffed animal, a certain Knuffle Bunny, when they go off to the laundromat with her somewhat distracted dad. You'll love

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19. Here’s Another Play about the Life of Walt Disney That May or May Not Be About His Life

Fictionalized accounts of Walt Disney’s life are all the rage this season, so much so that even the Walt Disney Company is inventing random stories about its founder that are loosely based in fact.

On Monday, the Soho Rep in Manhattan will open a new play written by Lucas Hnath called “A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney.” I haven’t found any reviews of the play, but the Wall Street Journal wrote that it “begins with a friendly greeting, but as [Disney] becomes ever more obsessed with his control of the narrative, he becomes less open with the audience, less appealing. He’s striving to dominate the truth.”

Character actor Larry Pine (House of Cards, Moonrise Kingdom, Oz) plays the role of Disney. It runs through May 26. The official show description:

Tonight Walt is going to read you a screenplay he wrote. It’s about his last days on earth. It’s about a city he’s going to build that’s going to change the world. And it’s about his brother. It’s about everyone who loves him so much, and it’s about how sad they’re going to be when he’s gone.

Right? I mean, how can they live without him? How can anyone live without him?

Artistic Director Sarah Benson directs the world premiere of Lucas Hnath’s adrenaline-charged odyssey, a supersonic portrait of the man who forever changed the American Dream.

Set Design by Mimi Lien, Costume Design by Kaye Voyce, Lighting Design by Matt Frey, Sound Design by Matt Tierney, Props by Jon Knust, Choreography by Annie-B Parson, Special Effects by Steve Cuiffo, Production Stage Manager: Heather Arnson, Production Manager: BD White.

Featuring Larry Pine as Walt Disney, Amanda Quaid as Daughter, Brian Sgambati as Ron and Frank Wood as Roy.

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20. A Play about the Death of Walt Disney That May or May Not Be About His Death

Fictionalized accounts of Walt Disney’s life are all the rage this season, so much so that even the Walt Disney Company is inventing random stories about its founder that are loosely based in fact.

On Monday, the Soho Rep in Manhattan will debut a new play written by Lucas Hnath called “A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney.” I haven’t found any reviews of the show, but the Wall Street Journal wrote that it “begins with a friendly greeting, but as [Disney] becomes ever more obsessed with his control of the narrative, he becomes less open with the audience, less appealing. He’s striving to dominate the truth.”

Character actor Larry Pine (House of Cards, Moonrise Kingdom, Oz) plays the role of Disney. It runs through May 26. The official show description:

Tonight Walt is going to read you a screenplay he wrote. It’s about his last days on earth. It’s about a city he’s going to build that’s going to change the world. And it’s about his brother. It’s about everyone who loves him so much, and it’s about how sad they’re going to be when he’s gone.

Right? I mean, how can they live without him? How can anyone live without him?

Artistic Director Sarah Benson directs the world premiere of Lucas Hnath’s adrenaline-charged odyssey, a supersonic portrait of the man who forever changed the American Dream.

Set Design by Mimi Lien, Costume Design by Kaye Voyce, Lighting Design by Matt Frey, Sound Design by Matt Tierney, Props by Jon Knust, Choreography by Annie-B Parson, Special Effects by Steve Cuiffo, Production Stage Manager: Heather Arnson, Production Manager: BD White.

Featuring Larry Pine as Walt Disney, Amanda Quaid as Daughter, Brian Sgambati as Ron and Frank Wood as Roy.

(Thanks, Daniel Savage)

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21. KNUFFLE BUNNY MUSICAL in Syracuse NY!

A new production of KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL opens on Friday May 24th at Syracuse's Gifford family Theatre (school matinees begin on the 21st) and runs through mid-June. Don't miss the action! The drama! The babbling! The HUGE dancing laundry! Details and tickets are here! If you're in the area, I hope you enjoy the production and tell 'em Mo sent ya!

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22. REVIEW: “Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play” Pushes The Simpsons Beyond the Apocalypse

I’m sure it will come as no surprise if we tell you that the 24th season of The Simpsons will not stand the test of time. In fact, if Anne Washburn’s new play Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, is any indication, not much will be remembered beyond season six.

In her new play, which was staged last year in Washington by the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company and opened at Playwrights Horizons in New York City earlier this week, storytelling is paramount in our world – post-nuclear holocaust. So much so, that reenacting scenes from the long-running animated series, mostly classic episodes like Bart of Darkness and A Streetcar Named Marge, is not simply entertainment, but a means of survival and coping with the fears of a newer, darker world.


The play opens with a group of friends around a campfire recalling lines from the classic Simpsons episode “Cape Feare,” in which Sideshow Bob gets out of prison and begins stalking the Simpson family with the intent to murder Bart. The episode is a parody of the 1991 Robert DeNiro thriller, Cape Fear, which is itself a remake of a 1962 film. Early in the play, these details are mentioned by the characters, but the Simpsons episode then takes on a life of its own and adopts mythic qualities that transform it into a theatrical tragedy rivaling the work of Hesiod or Euripides.

This first scene, which was, according to Ben Brantley’s glowing review in the New York Times, scripted from early workshops as the actors tried to recall lines from the episode in question, is buoyant and funny. It’s a treasure to any hardcore fan of The Simpsons who will be hard pressed to not want to contribute to the conversation, while at the same time, tense and eerie and barely covering up an unknown horror that exists outside of the proscenium.


In the second of the show’s three parts, the campfire group evolves to a fledgling theater troupe, perfecting their version of Simpsons episodes for audiences in nearby areas. Their reenactments, honed by bartering with other survivors for their memories of random lines from the lost episodes, now include commercials and choreographed medleys of Top 40s hits. But regardless of how much they use their craft to distract themselves from the continued fear of uncertainty, it always comes back to The Simpsons and more specifically, Cape Feare.

“That single Simpsons episode becomes a treasure-laden bridge, both to the past and into the future,” says Brantley, “And in tracing a story’s hold on the imaginations of different generations, the play is likely to make you think back — way back — to narratives that survive today from millenniums ago. Every age, it seems, has its Homers.”


In the last part, the source material has been deconstructed and blended seamlessly with popular references as far apart as Britney Spears and How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Mr. Burns, Springfield’s dark specter of nuclear power, taking center stage as a post-modern Mephistopheles. The result is self-referential theater about a popular television series that deftly manages to dodge the precious, the pretentious and the snarky, high art about low art and the fuzzy line between the two. It’s a clever, compelling embodiment of storytelling as a cornerstone of our society and asking what, in our world, will live on after society falls and we are forced to rebuild.

Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play will be staged through October 20 at Playwrights Horizons’ Mainstage Theater. It is written by Anne Washburn, directed by Steve Cosson, with music by Michael Friedman.

(Photos: © Playwright Horizons & The New York Times)

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23. A day with Carol Channing in Disneyland

By Eddie Shapiro


When I began work on my book, I knew I would be fortunate enough to experience a few moments of “Pinch me. This can’t really be happening.” There were, as it turned out, so many that I’d be black and blue if there was actual pinching going on. But of all of those moments, I think the highlight would have to be spending a day at Disneyland with Carol Channing and her late husband, Harry, who were then 90 and 91 respectively.

I had interviewed Carol the day before in front of an adoring audience at the annual Gay Days at Disneyland. But it had been decades since Carol had been in the park and the last time she was, her tour guide was, um, Walt Disney. She had a picture to prove it. Carol, Walt, and Maurice Chevalier on Main Street, USA! I couldn’t exactly beat that, but I did what I could. I mapped out the day with a full compliment of attractions starting gently enough with “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,“ an indoor show at which a robotic Abe recites the Gettysburg address. Carol was moved to tears. “It’s Walt!” she exclaimed. “This whole attraction is his spirit. Exactly who he was.” We emerged just in time to hear the Disneyland Marching Band emphatically playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” We clapped along before we hopped on “The Disneyland Railroad,” a steam train that circles the park. Carol grabbed my hand as we approached and began singing at full voice, “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out…” the song from Hello, Dolly! that culminates with the full company boarding a similar train. We sang together as we chugged along. I died.

Mickey Mouse bows to Carol Channing. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Mickey Mouse bows to Carol Channing. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

We rode the Peter Pan ride and the tea cups, we met Mickey Mouse (who literally got on his knees and bowed down to Carol), and we had our own boat on “It’s a Small World.” It was all just as I had planned it until… the unexpected. As we were walking through Fantasyland, Harry kept staring in the direction of the carousel. I hadn’t planned on an attraction as simple as the carousel because, well, it’s a carousel. But I couldn’t help but notice Harry’s interest. “Harry,” I asked, “did you want to ride the carousel?” “I’m lookin’ at it,” came the reply. “Well Harry,” I said, “we’re here! If you want to ride it, let’s ride it.”  We boarded and I went off in search of a nice bench for Carol and Harry. Carol seated herself but Harry was determined to mount a horse. At 91, however, he needed a hand or two, so I put my shoulder under his lower back and hoisted him up there. I then ran around to the other side and manually swung his leg astride the horse.

Harry, Carol Channing's husband, on the carousel. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Harry, Carol Channing’s husband, on the carousel. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

He was beaming, positively giddy. And in that moment, I realized that I was getting a major life lesson here. Carol and Harry were frail (he, in fact, passed less than three months later); one misstep could have been hugely consequential. A jostle from someone in the crowd could have been dire. But here they were, not just tasting everything life had to offer, but gobbling it up. If there was life to live, they were going to live it. And I thought to myself, “How does one become lucky enough to age into these people? Is it genetic? Is it a choice? What can I do to insure that when my golden years are upon me, I make them as golden as I can? Because these people have figured it out. They are who I aspire to be.”

When the sun was finally setting, we headed back to the hotel. I left them sitting in the lobby next to the grand piano while I went up to the room to retrieve their luggage. I returned just as the pianist was arriving for his set. He spied Carol and in no time he was gently tinkling the notes of “Hello, Dolly!” Before I knew what was happening, Carol was on her feet, one hand on the piano, the other aloft, belting out “Hello, Dolly!” for anyone who happened to be passing through the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel at 4:30 in the afternoon. It was something to behold and a moment I will never, ever forget.

For months afterward, Harry would call me, just to say hello. “You don’t know the gift you gave us that day,” he would always end with. “Harry,” I’d always reply, “you don’t know the gift you gave me.”

Author Eddie Shapiro, Carol Channing, and her husband Harry at Disneyland. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Author Eddie Shapiro, Carol Channing, and her husband Harry on the tea cup ride at Disneyland. Photo courtesy of Eddie Shapiro.

Eddie Shapiro is the author of Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater. His writing has appeared in publications such as Out Magazine, Instinct, and Backstage West. He is also a producer of Gay Days Disneyland and the author of Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks. 

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24. Don Hertzfeldt Short ‘Billy’s Balloon’ Turned Into Dance Performance (Exclusive)

Adapting animated films for the stage is no longer just the domain of feature films like "The Lion King" and "Shrek." Italian dance/theater troupe "eVolution" has adapted an unlikely animated short for live performance: Don Hertzfeldt's "Billy's Balloon."

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25. Wonka!


Fantastic projects have been keeping me up late at night and, of course, I can't share any of it. But I did remember that I was going to post some pics of a side personal project.
Two years ago I was swept up in the enthusiasm for my kids school play and volunteered to help produce the sets for the next show. The date of the show was approaching and I was essentially out of time but the good folks at Arts Alive had applied for and received some grant money and suddenly we had money for printing-large scale printing! Large scale as in 15 feet high and 30 feet long. I did a bunch of 8 foot square panels as well. Two nights of photoshop painting, a very accommodating large format printing company and ta dah! A show!
The amazing and fearless kids made the show a smash hit. But I look at the backdrops now, a year later, and I think they still look pretty good!



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