ATW - Working In The Theatre
Summary: For more than 30 years the American Theatre Wing has been bringing together performers, directors, playwrights, designers, choreographers, producers and behind-the-scenes personnel from the American and international theatre, the seminars offer a rare opportunity for students and audiences to see the people who create theatre engaged in thoughtful conversation with one another. With more than 600 past guests, the seminars have become an unequalled archive of theatrical talk, a chance to hear from the people behind the characters, stories and productions that draw us to the theatre.
The creative team behind the Broadway musical "Hairspray", producers Richard Frankel and Margo Lion, co-book writer Thomas Meehan, choreographer Jerry Mitchell, director Jack O'Brien, co-book writer Mark O'Donnell, composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman outline the journey the piece took from being a John Waters and Divine cult movie to hitting the Broadway stage; offer a peek at the process that created this smash hit and discuss the social messages that the show sends, both in its content and it's non-traditional casting.
Director Bob Balaban ("Y2K"), playwrights Richard Greenberg ("Take Me Out") and Suheir Hammad ("Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam"), choreographer Luis Perez ("Man of La Mancha") and director David Petrarca ("A Year With Frog and Toad") discuss the condition of American theatre both in New York and around the country, and some of the shifts that are occurring both in audience expectations and the direction of new works.
The artistic directors of four major not-for-profit companies - Susan V. Booth of the Alliance Theatre, Oskar Eustis of The Public Theater, Emily Mann of the McCarter Theatre Center and Michael Wilson of Hartford Stage - discuss the unique task of the artistic director, touching upon issues including how they balance their personal artistic goals as directors with the institutional needs of their companies, whether their focus is on the local community or the larger national artistic community, the relationship between not-for-profit theatres and commercial producers, how they measure success, and their responsibility for developing the next generation of theatre artists.
The extraordinary legacy of playwright August Wilson and his 10-play cycle of African-American life in the 20th Century is explored in a two-part program. First, a panel of Wilson's collaborators -- producer James Houghton (Signature Theatre Company), dramaturg Todd Kreidler, director Kenny Leon ("Radio Golf", "Gem of the Ocean"), actor/director Ruben Santiago Hudson ("Gem of the Ocean", "Seven Guitars"), producer Jack Viertel ("Radio Golf") -- discuss the process of developing and producing Wilson's plays. In the second half, the depth and variety of Wilson's characters are explored by Stephen McKinley Henderson ("Jitney", "King Hedley II"), Harry Lennix ("Radio Golf"), Tonya Pinkins ("Radio Golf") and Phylicia Rashad ("Gem of the Ocean"), joined by director Kenny Leon.
Four acclaimed leading men - Jeff Daniels ("Blackbird"), Brian Dennehy ("Inherit the Wind"), Liev Schreiber ("Talk Radio") and Kevin Spacey ("A Moon for the Misbegotten") - discuss a wide array of topics, including whether the prefer rehearsal to performance, their experience in long runs and how great plays can carry actors along, the acting opportunities of appearing in many plays by the same author, how they find new challenges, whether they can still enjoy theatre as a member of the audience, and if its harder to do their work now that they’re well known.
Musical director, orchestrator and arranger Jason Robert Brown, book writer Aaron Latham, producer Chase Mishkin, director Lonny Price, press representative Pete Sanders and producer Leonard Soloway are the guests on this program which discusses the how this classic movie was musicalized, how it was shepherded to Broadway, and how just enough was changed so it would still maintain the movie's original flavor.
Costume designer Suzy Benzinger ("Movin' Out"), lighting designer Beverly Emmons ("Jekyll and Hyde"), scenic designer Adrianne Lobel ("A Year With Frog and Toad"), sound designer David Meschter ("Medea"), lighting designer Rui Rita ("Enchanted April") and scenic designer David Rockwell ("Hairspray") talk about the practicalities of design - including how to approach a new design job, the similarities of low-budget showcases and big budget Broadway productions, ways to build a collaborative relationship with a director and the many sources of inspiration in the world around us.
Actors from both sides of the Atlantic - Sutton Foster ("Thoroughly Modern Millie"), Clare Higgins ("Vincent in Brixton"), Eddie Izzard ("A Day in the Death of Joe Egg"), Brian Stokes Mitchell ("Man of La Mancha") and Brent Spiner ("Life (x) 3") - share some of the high points and quite a few humorous moments (including pulling surprised audience members onstage during a performance, accidentally) from their stage careers.
Four actors from the 42-member "The Coast of Utopia" company -- Jennifer Ehle, Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke and Amy Irving -- talk about the experience of appearing in Tom Stoppard's triptych of 19th century Russian intellectual history, including their own trepidation at working with the brilliant Stoppard; adapting language written by an English playwright for Russian characters to the comfort of American actors -- and audiences; the thrill of of working in a variant of a classical repertory company; whether they chose to research the era and their characters; and why they chose to spend a year of their lives with this project, playing parts both large and small.
Director Jeff Calhoun, actor Phyllis Frelich, actor Tyrone Giordano, producer Todd Haimes, actor Daniel Jenkins and producer Bill O'Brien explain how Deaf West Theatre Company, a sign language theatre company, decided to put on the musical "Big River"; why that is not a bad idea, as many initially thought; the integration of signing into the choreography of the show; and how 2 actors, one hearing and one deaf, shared each of the principal roles.
Choreographer Jonathan Butterell ("The Light In The Piazza", "Nine"), director Moises Kaufman ("The Laramie Project", "Gross Indecency"), playwright Arthur Kopit ("Nine", "Oh Dad, Poor Dad..."), choreographer Joey McKneely("The Boy From Oz", "Wild Party"), playwright Theresa Rebeck ("Ominum Gatherum", "Bad Dates") and director Susan H. Schulman ("Little Women", "Secret Garden") explore how playwrights, directors and choreographers place themselves in the body of the character so that the character's voices and actions can emerge, what happens in the theatre to make the experience different from film and television, what it means to be an artist - and how an artist's success is measured.
Members of the creative team of the Tony-winning musical "Avenue Q" -- Robert Lopez (Composer/Lyricist), Rick Lyon (Puppet Designer/Actor), Jeff Marx (Composer/Lyricist),and Jeff Whitty (Book Writer) -- along with producers Robyn Goodman and Jeffrey Seller explain how the pieces came together to create this unique puppet musical, the journey from its early days at the BMI Workshop and the O'Neill Theater Center to the Vineyard Theatre/New Group production to Broadway, including the challenge of expanding a show in scale when the central characters, namely the puppets, can't grow along with the size of the theatre.
Scenic Designer, David Gallo ("Thoroughly Modern Millie"); Lighting Designer, Donald Holder ("Little Shop Of Horrors"); Scenic Designer, Anna Louizos ("Avenue Q"); Scenic and Costume Designer, G.W. Mercier ("Juan Darien") and Costume Designer, Catherine Zuber ("Dinner At Eight") discuss how designing on a restricted budget can force a designer to find a more creative solution; spectacle on Broadway - is it expected and how it does or does not affect ticket prices; the necessity today for a designer to juggle multiple projects and the joy and heartbreak of working in an ephemeral art form.
Casting Directors Tara Rubin ("Spamalot", "The Producers"), Laura Stanczyk ("Translations", "Sweet Charity"), Daniel Swee ("The Coast of Utopia", "The Vertical Hour"), and Bernie Telsey ("Wicked", "Hairspray") explore and explain the work of the casting director, touching on issues from the best advice they can give actors about auditioning, how they work with directors and writers in the casting process, the challenges of luring stars to the stage, how they feel about stunt casting and televised casting competitions, and why judiciously mailing head shots and resumes can be an effective job-seeking strategy for aspiring actors.
Tovah Feldshuh ("Golda's Balcony"), Marc Kudisch ("Thoroughly Modern Millie"), Swoosie Kurtz ("Frozen"), Rebecca Luker ("Nine"), Denis O'Hare ("Take Me Out") and Lewis J. Stadlen ("The Producers") come together in this interview to talk about their careers - both on Broadway and around the country - covering a variety of topics, including the challenge of playing real people and "capturing their essence," the effect of typecasting, the value of acting teachers, and how in performance they relate to their audiences.