You Could Make it Plainer

No, we’re not odd, its true
No fam’ly could be saner
Except one uncle who…well, maybe let that pass
In all you say or do
You couldn’t make it plainer
You are your mother’s daughter; therefore you are class

-Maurice in “No Matter What” from the Beauty and the Beast, the Broadway musical

I understand the impetus to write new songs for musicals based on animated films. Sometimes it’s necessary to expand the singing portion of the production. At other times it’s in order to solve an issue posed by the dramatic structure.

For this song, the creative conversation probably involved the desire to not only give Maurice a song, but to solidify his emotional connection with his daughter before they are separated. However, the song feels like it delays the plot rather than advances it. In addition, the film dialogue it replaces is remarkable for its casual tone. It’s a conversation that could have happened any day. Belle encourages her father by saying she’s always believed he’ll “become a world famous inventor” and Maurice expresses his love for his daughter telling her not to worry about not having someone else she can talk to because “this invention’s going to be the start of a new life for us.”

By making the characters literally profess their sanity, “No Matter What” has the effect of protesting too much. Exploring each other’s eccentricities isn’t the point of the scene, rather it is to present their unconditional love for one another. For this father and daughter to conjure the issue of social acceptance into song here seems unnecessary given the clarity and strength of their relationship which could be conveyed in a much better way as evidenced by the film. If this dynamic was in question, then perhaps the song would be more appropriate since the intended effect of song in a musical is to give voice to that which cannot be spoken. Instead, “No Matter What” draws attention to insecurities that are likely not so deeply rooted as to merit a melody.

Mostly, I just wanted to say that last line isn’t likely to catch on as an affirming adage for young women.

News: Pirates, Disneyland, SNL, RSS, Mother’s Day, The Guild

• Yesterday Disneyland hosted the premiere for the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, On Stranger Tides. The screening took place in a huge amphitheater constructed especially for the event bridging the Rivers of America. Over 22,000 people were expected to attend some of whom paid $1,000 per ticket. Proceeds benefitted the Boys and Girls Club of America for which Walt Disney was a great advocate. Check out what into preparing for this massive event via the LA Times.

• A great collection of 45 vintage photographs from Disneyland created the old fashioned way entirely sans use of Instagram.

• Marvel’s Thor hit the U.S. market Friday after being released internationally the previous week. In just 11 days the film has grossed $242 million worldwide.

• Does this signal the imminent death of RSS?

• ELEVEN is officially the last project I have going on in New York before I make the cross-country move to the Los Angeles area next week. With performances happening Thursday, May 12th and Friday, May 13th at 8:00 PM near Columbia University, ELEVEN is a theatrical event featuring eleven short plays tied to specific moments and places in one imagined night in a vaudeville house.

• Tina Fey returned as a host on Saturday Night Live yesterday and brought along her renowned Sarah Palin impression.

• Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. along with many other countries, but did you know that the date for Mother’s Day ranges from mid-February to December across the world?

• For the occasion, New York theater journalist Jonathan Mandell took a survey of the various mother figures currently represented on Broadway including Donna in Mamma Mia, Morticia in The Addams Family, and Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot.

• Both Tom Lenk and Eliza Dushku—two Joss Whedon vets—are on the set of Felicia Day’s web series, The Guild today.

 

Sleep No More

Sleep No More is by far the most unique theatre experience I have had this year and I expect it to remain that way for some time for its theatricality is only one facet of its identity as a piece of entertainment. Even then, it refuses to fall into any kind of clear category of entertainment either. Continue reading

New Plays Now

Tomorrow night, Columbia University School of the Arts and the Theatre Arts program kick off the NEW PLAYS NOW festival featuring the work the MFA Playwriting Class of 2011 with a first-ever launch party at 3LD Art & Technology Center (80 Greenwich Street @ Rector), also the site of each performance in this annual series.

The event begins at 7pm with a panel discussion moderated by Theatre Arts Chair, Arnold Aronson and including some of the renowned mentors from Columbia’s Playwright Mentoring Program. This will be followed by a video presentation this year’s graduating playwrights and a lively reception with food and drink provided by Martin Brothers Wines and Spirits, Inc., Brooklyn Brewery and Sage General Store.

We’re so excited to be able to come together in such a festive way to celebrate these talented individuals. I’m really proud of everyone who has helped make it happen. It’s going to be a great evening.

The NEW PLAYS NOW series begins Wednesday, April 13th. You can find out more about each of the shows via the festival brochure or on Facebook.

All events including the launch party are FREE but reservations are required. RSVP: newplays@columbiastages.org.

MFA Playwriting Class of 2011: Jennifer Lane, James Ryan Caldwell, Otso Huopaniemi, Camila Le-Bert, Jesse Longman, Erin Moughon, John Douglas Weidner, Samara Weiss, Zhu Yi

Oresteia

In just ten days, Columbia Stages presents the final mainstage production of the 2010-2011 season, a new adaption of the only complete surviving dramatic trilogy from ancient Greece, the Oresteia.

Columbia University MFA Directing Candidate 2011, Jonathan Vandenberg has synthesized all three volumes into a visceral production concentrated on gesture, image and sound. In it, King Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to the gods on his path to war. Her death sets in motion a seemingly unbreakable chain of vengeful acts that engulf the royal family at the House of Atreus. Oresteia spins a mythic narrative examining the savage and divine within human nature.

Like the director of our previous production-Anna Brenner on 3 Women-Jonathan Vandenberg has been actively updating his personal website with rehearsal photos and behind the scenes images from the building of this world set out of time and place. One of my favorite images is one showing the construction of a ritual goat mask with a piece of detailed concept art next to it as a guide.

Oresteia runs April 20—23 at Riverside Theatre on near Columbia University with performances Wednesday–Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm & 8pm.

Tickets are $15 general admission; $5 seniors; and completely FREE with any valid student ID.

For more details and a full cast list visit Oresteia on Facebook or Jonathan’s own website.

News: Animal Kingdom, Monsters Inc, Enrique, Glee, Elizabeth Taylor

• A friend visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL took this photo and reports an alligator underwent surgery today to treat a bite wound from another alligator and an infected arm. Surgeons put the animal under then amputated a toe and cleaned out the infection. Have you ever seen anything quite like it?

• Speaking of Disney, Monsters, Inc. 2 will be called Monsters University. Although few details regarding the film’s plot have been made available, it has been purported to be a prequel following the exploits of Mike and Sulley during their studies at at the University of Fear.

• 3 Women directed by Anna Brenner has its premiere tonight in New York at Columbia Stages, the producing arm of Columbia University’s graduate theatre program.

• New photos of the titular character from David E. Kelly’s Wonder Woman series on NBC have emerged showing a more muted and less comical costume than the press photo unveiled about two weeks ago.

• The “Born This Way” Gaga-inspired episode of Glee will run for an hour and a half. An hour and a half. Of Glee.

• Enrique Iglesias dropped out of a tour with Britney Spears set to begin this summer when it became clear that his involvement would be akin to an opening act.

• There has been a public call to name a street after Elizabeth Taylor in West Hollywood.

3 Women

Tomorrow night, 3 Women, a new theatrical show directed by Columbia MFA Directing Candidate Anna Brenner based on Robert Altman’s 1977 film has its world premiere at Riverside Theatre in New York City.

About ten months ago was when I first began talking with Anna about the best way to describe the story of such an odd yet intoxicating film and how she would transform her affinity and respect for the film and its dialogue into a vehicle for the stage.

Over the course of the summer, we developed a short description for her vision which recently evolved into the following as she entered the production phase of the project and I and the marketing team at Columbia Stages sought to clarify what it would mean and look like for our audiences:

Inspired by Robert Altman’s 1977 film, 3 Women is a dreamlike investigation of personality and identity through the perspective of three women in a dusty California town. This atmospheric, character-driven piece combines video, sound, and movement to create an uncanny world, invoking both humor and terror, to tell the story of lost souls in the process of reinvention.

Anna recently shared with us a quote from Jack Kroll’s review of the film 3 Women from the April 18, 1977 issue of Newsweek.

“Like any true artist, Robert Altman couldn’t play it safe if he wanted to. In 3 Women Altman dares to make something beautiful out of the deepest and most all-encompassing sorrow. Bleak visions of life are a dime a dozen these days, and the only excuse for an artist to have such a vision is to turn that bleakness into something blazing with paradoxical light and heat, something to stir and shock us into the exhilaration of discovery. This is what Altman does in 3 Women…Altman’ s dream of three women expresses his sense that human beings have become more vulnerable than ever to pain, loss, betrayal, cruelty and shame. He’ s right, but his film has an originality and beauty of form that moves you beyond the force of its insight.”

Columbia Stages’ world premiere production of 3 Women runs March 30—April 2 with performances taking place Wednesday—Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm & 8pm.

Tickets are $15 general admission; $5 seniors; and completely FREE with any valid student ID.

For more details and a full cast list, which includes actor Mike James-seen earlier this month in Jess K Smith’s production of Machinal at Columbia Stages-visit 3 Women on Facebook.