Theatreland CENTER THEATRE GROUP PRESENTS
FROM THE PUBLISHERS OF
TONY, GRAMMY AND ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING
Pasek & Paul STRIKE A CHORD WITH
DEAR EVAN HANSEN PG 14
“LA Is My Love Story”
LUIS VALDEZ’ TRIUMPHANT SECOND ACT PG 9 WE DARE YOU TO SIT STILL AT Ain’t Too Proud (HINT: IT’S IMPOSSIBLE) PG 10
“DON’T GET INTO A PISSING CONTEST IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHICH WAY THE WIND IS BLOWING”
...AND OTHER WISE WORDS FROM
Artistic Director Michael Ritchie PG 21
AYA CASH ON DTLA:
Tacos and Cocktails (AND COCKTAIL DRESSES) PG 5
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A GUT-PUNCHING, BREATHTAKING KNOCKOUT OF A MUSICAL.
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ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE SHOWS IN MUSICAL THEATER HISTORY.
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Theatreland EDITOR IN CHIEF
CREATIVE DIRECTOR Cortnee Brown
FEATURES WRITER Scott Huver
eanut butter and jelly. Gin and tonic. Fred and Ginger: All classic pairings that never go out of style. Another one to add to the list? Dinner and a show. And in no other city at no other time is this combination quite as exciting as right now in our hometown of Los Angeles.
The three theatres that make up Center Theatre Group—the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre—are all as essential to the LA experience as is hiking Runyon Canyon, driving Mulholland or surfing in Malibu. This fall, each theatre’s line-up is particularly noteworthy. From
CUSTOM PUBLISHING DIRECTOR Mitch Getz
Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson to the return of Luis Valdez with Valley of the Heart at the Taper, Center Theatre Group has curated a selection that will entertain, inspire and leave you thinking about what you saw and heard long after the event itself.
INTEGRATED ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Mathew Jongsma
Welcome to Theatreland, the quintessential theatrical coffee table mag to reference this fall season. All you need is a date (a date with yourself works, too), a free evening and an open mind to enjoy world-
class productions in your own backyard. Because when it comes to
theatre, Los Angeles offers a certain west coast style that simply
cannot be replicated anywhere else. It’s among the many reasons I’m
Stephen D. Rountree
endlessly proud to call this city home.
Douglas C. Baker
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Deborah R. Warren
601 West Temple Street Los Angeles, CA 90012 www.CenterTheatreGroup.org 213.628.2772 tickets@CTGLA.org
See you at the show,
Publisher, Los Angeles magazine
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A N G E L E N O S’ NIGHT OUT Looking for the perfect dinner-and-a-show date night itinerary? These three locals show us how they paint the town red in their favorite respective neighborhoods.
Photo Courtesy of Office of Mayor Garcetti
Thomas Sadoski @thomas_sadoski Profession: “Theatre Rat” The Hood DTLA The Look Ted Baker or Billy Reid The Date My wife. “She has an incredible artistic mind and open heart. She sees things I miss.” The Dinner Little Sister. “Don’t miss the salt and pepper lobster or the cod fried rice.” The Drinks PYT, Bäco Mercat or Orsa & Winston Can’t Miss The Last Bookstore
Photo Courtesy of Little Sister
Find Him At Happy Days at the Mark Taper Forum. “If you’re not willing to sell your house to see Dianne Wiest do Samuel Beckett, then you’re certifiably and dangerously insane.” 4:
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Aya Cash @maybeayabash Profession: Actor The Hood DTLA The Look Rachel Comey. “I like getting a little dressed for the theatre. It makes it feel like a Bestia, Photo: Sierra Prescott special night.” The Date “My friends Kelly and Troy, with whom I’ve been going on theatre dates since 2003.” The Dinner “Guisados for tacos and Bestia if I can get a reservation. I’m also a David Chang superfan so I can’t wait to try Majordomo.” The Drinks Apotheke and Golden Gopher Can’t Miss Grand Central Market, The Broad museum and Virgo Downtown.
Find Her At Ain’t Too Proud at the Ahmanson Theatre. The Temptations are one of my favorites!
Rebecca Hahn @rhahn_oc Profession: Senior VP of Communications at Bird The Hood Culver City The Look Dress by Reformation or Ulla Johnson. Jacket by ALC or Iro. Golden Goose sneakers or Photo Courtesy of Bird Converse (while riding a Bird, naturally). The Date My husband. The Dinner Lukshon for the crab fried rice. The Drinks 99 Problems But a Drink Ain’t One from The Alley is a must. Can’t Miss “Birding around Culver City is the best way to visit lots of places in a small span of time. I always try to check out the latest exhibit at Thinkspace.”
Find Her At Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre. Who hasn’t seen it and loved it?!
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School Girls ;
Or, the African Mean Girls Play
“ “ KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE: SEPTEMBER 2-30
L-R: Abena Mensah-Bonsu, Mirirai Sithole and Paige Gilbert. Photo by Joan Marcus
With pageants, popularity contests and a society consumed by talent and beauty, this biting comedy is not to be missed.
We need what theatre strives to create: more empathy, community and connection. Rebecca Taichman, Director
Theatre is so essential to our lives, now more than ever, as it exposes our deepest truths, fears, failures and triumphs. It teaches us empathy, a trait desperately needed in today’s climate of fear and intolerance. Zainab Jah, Actor
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T A L L A F THIS
KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE: OCTOBER 21 – NOVEMBER 18 A hilarious new comedy about the wellness industry, the men who dole out advice and the women who receive it with a smile.
It deals with identity and cults of personality. The price and power of fame and narcissism, with the new frontier of social media as a kind of digital crucible. Dane Laffrey, Set & Costume Designer
Theatre forces us to be present together for a few hours, to share something that will never exist in that exact form ever again. When it works, it’s magic. Eliza Clark, Playwright
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THIS FALL AT
Sweat MARK TAPER FORUM: AUGUST 29 – OCTOBER 7 After an acclaimed Broadway run, Sweat arrives at the Taper as a searing reflection of America’s economic decline (with a little humor thrown in).
Theatre provides a platform for playwrights and performers to tell stories that speak true to our life experiences, past and present. John Earl Jelks, Actor
The main thing that Sweat can do is shake up your expectations and judgements of people who are not like you, whoever you are. Lisa Peterson, Director
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Valley of the Heart MARK TAPER FORUM: OCTOBER 30 – DECEMBER 9 Luis Valdez, the legendary creator of Zoot Suit and Latino theatre pioneer, returns to the Taper with an epic tale of two young lovers from immigrant families who struggle with questions of loyalty to heritage, country and personal desires. Produced by Center Theatre Group in association with Valdez’s El Teatro Campesino, Valley of the Heart is a quintessentially California play written by a master of the genre. Have you always wanted to provide a political commentary in your work? Well, I’ve had no alternative or choice. My whole life, my experience has been politicized by the culture around me. Valley of the Heart is a distinct case in point because my father took over the farm of a Japanese family when they went to a internment camp. He was asked by the army to grow crops for the armed forces and run the ranch. When the war ended, we were dispossessed and I learned a little more about our situation. The way our country treated the Japanese angered and frustrated me. I couldn’t understand why it happened. I needed to write Valley of the Heart as a witness to this great injustice. I believe that one of the principal duties of the theatre is to create more human compassion. We tell stories to entertain ourselves but also to understand each other. We’re always in the now, but we also look to the past to try to avoid making the same mistakes.
What was the political environment when you wrote Valley of the Heart in 2012 and how have things changed between now and then? Injustice tends to creep in on tiny little feet, like weeds in a garden, and before you know it, the garden is choking. I’m very proud to be a Californian, because we live side by side and it forces us to appreciate and understand other cultures. We need to continue to weed the garden. Every generation has the duty and responsibility to address the injustices in their own backyard.
Why do you think theatre is so essential in our modern lives right now? The theatre is a live flesh-and-blood forum. It’s a communal experience. You respond with the audience to tragedy or comedy. When you get to experience a story that reinforces our universality, it’s a verification of our communal life. Theatre is a creator of community and community is a creator of theatre. It’s a public forum of ideas and sentiments and a place for compassion. You learn best when you’re confronted with living human beings. That is the magic of theatre—the suspension of disbelief brings our minds and hearts to a place we never would have visited.
What do you think makes LA such a great theatre town? As a native Californian, I think that the authentic voices of California still need to be developed. Because of the topography of LA, the city has expanded in every direction, from the sea to the mountains to the valleys. And it’s allowed for a density of human experience that you might not get on the east coast, defined by the creativity of the people who have come along. Valley of the Heart has had a very broad appeal because it speaks to all of us and speaks to the future, which pleases me so much. It’s a love story and at the risk of sounding ridiculous, LA is my love story. Theatreland :
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LETTING THE Songs TELL THE STORY
Playwright Dominique Morisseau Charts a Band’s Rise in Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations
Ephraim Sykes - Ain’t Too Proud. Photo by Doug Hamilton.
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nterpersonal clashes. A turbulent era of American history. A band’s journey from their discovery on the streets of Detroit into beloved national icons. Dominique Morisseau – the acclaimed, award-winning playwright best known for her three-play cycle The Detroit Project and hot off a stint writing for the Showtime series “Shameless” – had a lot to work with when she began crafting the book for a new musical about The Temptations, the smooth and soulful Motown chart-toppers of the late ’60 and early ’70s Morisseau zeroed in on the group’s internal and external strife (drawing largely from the memoir of baritone-voiced founder and sole surviving member Otis Williams) as they navigated their spectacular rise when mainstream America had yet to grow truly comfortable with black superstars, and vice versa. I’m “really dealing with the fullness of their story,” she explains, “the story of these young African American men navigating their identities, their music and their role as artists at a time when the nation was in great civic and social unrest. I just think that speaks for now, in a way that captured me when I was reading Otis’ biography.” The result is a tale that doesn’t shy away from the dark corners that loom in The Temptations’ narrative. She says the story finds compelling and startlingly relevant revelations in “their ups and their downs, their hardships – but then also personally: their own battles with fame and substances, and their relation-
ships to each other. Those things are really where the story hits the hardest.” As a Detroit native growing up in the long shadow of the Baby Boomers, her parents’ generation, exposure to The Temptations was inevitable and inescapable. “There’s not a Detroiter of my generation that did not grow up in some capacity on Motown,” she says. “Being able to tell this story from a generation removed allows me to see it from my parents’ lens, the Generation X lens and through the Millennial lens. I feel like I’m merging those three generational points of view into the story.” And as a chronicler of the Motor City experience in many of her prior stage works – including Detroit ’67, Paradise Blue and Skeleton Crew – Morisseau was also keenly attuned to just how critical the rise of Motown was to her hometown’s history and mythology. Indeed, seeing Ain’t Too Proud for the first time, two of her friends since high school recently remarked, “‘This story was about The Temptations, but it wasn’t just about The Temptations. This was also the story of Detroit.’ I thought, ‘Oh, that’s an interesting perspective.’ The tale of triumph, heartbreak and resilience – that’s a story our city knows really well. And that’s the people of our city, and the people were often misunderstood.”
Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, James Harkness, Jared Joseph, and Derrick Baskin in Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Photo by litwin.
“You know The Temptations’ music, but you’re getting a different delivery of it with this show.”
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The songs revealed themselves to us... The music itself just moves through time brilliantly on its own.
efore the production’s book started taking shape, Morisseau found that as she reviewed all of the approved music from The Temptations’ songbook she had to draw from with director Des McAnuff, it became quickly apparent which songs both rose to the top and, remarkably, conveyed The Temps’ journey in a surprisingly organic way. “The songs tell their own story,” she explains. “Last night I watched the show like, ‘This is amazing – we really didn’t even go out of order.’” The group’s notoriously fluid membership roster also provided ideal moments of transition. “When you get rid of a Temptation and a new one joins the group as a lead singer, it’s the perfect time to sing that song,” she says. Societal sea changes also lent fresh contexts to the deceptively multi-leveled music. “These lyrics that are love lyrics really sound like they’re talking about more than a traditional relationship between men and women,” she says. “It sounds like this could be a relationship between anyone: a man and a man, a woman and a woman, this could be a relationship between men and their nation. And I just started operating on all these levels, and that’s how the songs revealed themselves to us, as opposed to we did anything brilliant. The music itself just moves through time brilliantly on its own.” Audiences have responded to the music and the story with passion. The show was a massive, sell-out hit at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where it was not uncommon to see audiences cheering and dancing to these beloved songs. The creative team’s instincts about the music received some particularly trenchant validation in Washington as well, Moris-
seau reveals. Representative John Lewis, “who did the Freedom Rides and the Civil Rights movement, and started the March on Washington with Dr. King,” shared a key bit of insight about just how deeply the music mattered to the movement at a post-show meet-and-greet, she recalls.“He said, ‘If not for the music, the Civil Rights movement would have been a bird with no wings.’ And I just thought, ‘God – you can’t write that better.’ It was one of the most profound things anyone’s ever said to us about the show.” So many of the messages in the music also ring true in today’s increasingly divisive and racially charged cultural and political climate. “You know The Temptations’ music, but you’re getting a different delivery of it with this show,” she says. “I’m very excited about how we use the element of theatre to really deepen and transcend the meanings in some of the songs. We’re finding new meaning in their music that I think speaks to a very contemporary context.”
orisseau is officially an Angeleno now, after spending her formative years in Detroit and graduating from the University of Michigan, followed by over 15 years in New York City. But she’s already feeling right at home in Southern California now that Hollywood has beckoned. “I’m so excited about the world of TV and film, because I’m a storyteller and I just love every medium that allows me to think big and outside the box about stories,” she says.
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“I figured out I just have all these different stories in me, and I just want to tell them in the best medium for the story. Sometimes it’s several mediums. Sometimes that would make a great novel, film and play. And sometimes I’m like, ‘No – this isn’t just a play. This is a television show. This is the best way for this to be told.’ “I’m a story nerd,” she enthuses. “However I can get into a good story, I want to tell it that way.”
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations will be at the Ahmanson Theatre from August 21 to September 30. For tickets, visit www.ctgla.org.
Playwright Dominique Morisseau ABOVE: The cast of Ain’t Too Proud. Photo by Joel Dockendorf.
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B Buddy, You and I
With Dear Evan Hansen in full swing, an unlikely musical theatre duo reflects on their journey to becoming the industryâ€™s most celebrated composers
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ow fitting that when a pair of 18-year-old future musical theatre songwriting partners and soon-tobe best friends, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, met as college freshmen, one of the things they bonded over – along with an obsessive knowledge of show tunes, a gift for nimble, smart-alecky banter and an unwarranted belief in their skills as freestyle rappers and beat-boxers – was a particular affinity for shared idol Stephen Sondheim’s flopturned-cult-classic Merrily We Roll Along, which chronicles the ascent of a Broadway songwriting duo, backwards from world-weary cynicism to bright-eyed optimism Both knew the lyrics to every song from the show, but “Our Time” spoke to them with special urgency. “What kid with the completely unrealistic belief that he’s going to make it on Broadway doesn’t see himself in that song?” Pasek says. “It’s that mixture of naiveté and arrogance and hope, that heady spirit of ‘Look out, world – here we come.’” “Our Time” is indeed an apt anthem for the moment in which Pasek and Paul – still fresh-faced and bristling with enthusiasm at 33 – find themselves: Tonys for Dear Evan Hansen and Oscars for their lyrics to the song “City of Stars” from La La Land on their mantels; their big-screen musical The Greatest Showman both a box office marvel and bona fide pop culture phenomenon; a live-action Snow White film in the works for Disney; and still more theatre and film projects at various stages of development. Fourteen years into their partnership, the two are no longer bright, talented kids with promise, but new members of the aristocracy of success.
heirs is a marriage of opposites. A practicing Christian married to a journalist, Paul is lanky and pale with a swoosh of blond hair. Jewish and gay, Pasek is swarthy and compact. And they play off each other with the practiced timing of a vaudeville team – or a pair of songwriters who finish each other’s sentences, riff on each other’s jokes and shoot each other glances that only they understand.
ABOVE: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Photo by Jenny Anderson. BELOW: Fans line up outside the Music Box Theatre in New York City for “Dear Evan Hansen” Fan Day on Broadway. Photo courtesy of “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Every song begins and ends with Paul composing the music at the piano and Pasek writing the lyrics on his MacBook. But the key to their partnership, they say, is how their individual strengths and weaknesses dovetail to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Since the beginning, they have shared credit for both music and lyrics: “The idea is to make the songs sound like they emerged from one mind and speak with one voice,” Paul says. Paul grew up first in St. Louis and then Westport, Connecticut, and his parents instilled in him a love of music. He started singing with his father, a pastor, in church as a young boy, and the soaring emotionality of gospel embedded itself in his musical DNA. Cast in a local production of Oliver! and soon armed with the original cast recording of Cats, his life became all about musical theatre.
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“Dear Evan Hansen” creative team members Benj Pasek, Steven Levenson, Alex Lacamoire, Justin Paul and Michael Greif. Photo by Chad Kraus.
Pasek followed a parallel trajectory in Ardmore, a suburb of Philadelphia. His early musical influence was his mother, a developmental psychologist who moonlit writing children’s music. “So I was always tracking how moments from real life could be translated into songs,” he says. Pasek’s gateway drug into musical theatre, at age 11, was Rent: “I remember being so moved by it and feeling that I had found these incredible characters and a secret community of people that related to them.” By the time the two met during freshman orientation at the University of Michigan’s prestigious Musical Theatre program, both had decided to pursue careers as performers – potential triple threats, they imagined! But before the end of their first ballet class, Pasek says, they discovered that they were “completely inept – literally the two worst dancers in the class,” so they downgraded themselves to potential “double threats.” But by the spring of their sophomore year, significant roles in the big school musicals continued to elude them. “It was pretty depressing,” Pasek recalls. “And we started to realize, ‘Hmm, I think we might be getting down to zero threats.’” If no one would cast them in a musical, Pasek and Paul mused, why not write one of their own and put it on themselves? They had taken a stab at a songwriting collaboration
as freshmen and already had three songs ready to go. “When we got in the room, we had this perfect combination of ADD and a creative spark together,” Pasek says. Crafting theatrical songs that they could imagine in a musical, they were guided by the questions they had learned to ask in their acting classes: Who are you talking to? What do you want? What’s your obstacle? “We kept noticing that a trope in the musical theatre canon was these songs about young people who had big dreams,” Pasek recalls. “So we were like ‘We’re going to write a song that’s going to be our ‘Corner of the Sky,’ or whatever.’ And we literally wrote a song called ‘Boy With Dreams.’”
uring what they call their “dark night of the soul” over their 2005 spring break in Florida, they committed to writing a full show – and to each other as collaborators. Lacking the know-how, not to mention the time, to write a full book musical with a plot, they decided to create a thematically-linked song cycle. Back at school, they booked Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Concert House that April, invited everyone from their department, enlisted four
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fellow school musical rejects as performers and, spurred by the looming performance, spent the next three weeks racing against the clock to write another eleven songs and teach them to the cast. The let’s-put-on-a-show result was Edges, whose title is a nod, appropriately, to a lyric from Merrily We Roll Along’s “Our Time.” The one-night-only concert was a smash, propelled by clever, tuneful songs about young people on the edge of adulthood, trying to maneuver the challenges of romance, friendship, responsibility and ambition. They uploaded videos of their concert to YouTube and, through Facebook, figured out which colleges had theatre departments and pitched the show to those schools. Within a year, 13 colleges had mounted Edges. After its first professional production in 2007, it has since been performed all over the world.
ell before they’d turned 30, Pasek and Paul had established themselves among the best and the brightest of the upcoming generation of musical theatre writers. By 2013, after the era- and setting-specific songs they’d just crafted, they longed to return
logically anxious or depressed – but they did mine the sense of alienation, not uncommon to kids who find their way to the performing arts, that each felt as an adolescent. “I really hate the phrase ‘fit in,’ and yet there’s a reason that we always use it,” Paul says. “I remember many of my decisions – and I was a pretty independent-minded kid – being based to a degree on wanting to fit in and feel part of some group or some clique or some bunch of people who did the same things. I found that with musical theatre. When I think about Evan and think about myself, I identify because, at the end of the day, you just want to feel that you’re not the only one who isn’t part of something.” Pasek also found a refuge with the theatre kids at his school. “For me, it was less about fitting in and more about finding my identity,” he says. “A lot of people at that age, myself included, don’t know who they are. That’s how I identify with Evan the most. He’s given a chance to have a strong sense of self, but it’s built on a fabrication, so it’s sitting on very, very shaky ground. You want to feel that you are loved and heard and seen and valued when you don’t feel that way behind closed doors. That’s very much how I felt at 17 – waiting to like myself and wondering if other people would ever think I was worth liking.” Of all their achievements – including their subsequent, splashy storming of Hollywood – there’s no question that
“When we got in the room, we had this perfect combination of ADD and a creative spark together.” to the kind of contemporary sound and setting they had first explored with Edges. And, after three musicals based on existing material, they wanted to write one that was completely original. As it happened, they already had an idea in mind, based loosely on an incident from Pasek’s high school days, an idea he’d batted around with Paul since their time at university. Approached by admiring producer Stacey Mindich hoping to commission their next musical, Pasek and Paul knew they wanted to write, as Paul put it in an email to Mindich, “a story from our lives and from our hearts.” Pasek and Paul may not have based the hero of Dear Evan Hansen on their younger selves – neither of them was patho-
Dear Evan Hansen remains closest to their hearts. “It’s the culmination,” Paul says, “of everything we’ve done, and everything we’ve wanted to do, since we first started writing songs together.”
Dear Evan Hansen will be at the Ahmanson Theatre from October 17 to November 25. For tickets, visit www.ctgla.org. Re-printed from Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window (Grand Central Publishing / Melcher), authored by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul Theatreland :
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The original Broadway cast of Come From Away. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Opening Heart On 9/11, the world stopped. On 9/12, their stories moved us all. From Tony-winning Best Director Christopher Ashley, Come From Away is a remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them.
ou don’t have to press Christopher Ashley for anecdotal evidence about the reciprocal benefits of spreading positivity through artistic expression.
Ashley, of course, is the director who cultivated the warmly cathartic stage musical Come From Away at the La Jolla Playhouse (where he’s served as artistic director for over a decade) and on to its spectacularly successful Broadway run, where the story’s refreshing rendition of unfettered culture-bridging kindness and hospitality in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy – chronicling the true tale of how the
residents of Gander, Newfoundland opened their homes and hearts to the thousands of stranded airline passengers in the wake of the September 11 attacks – melted the hearts and moistened the eyes of even the most hardened critics and theatregoers. The fruits of the feel-good euphoria included staggering box office receipts, critical plaudits and a plethora of awards and nominations, including a 2017 Tony Award win for Ashley as Best Director of a Musical. And while all the professional highs were certainly things
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ome From Away arrived at a time when American anxiety was running as high as it had been since the 2001 attacks – maybe higher, as internal polarization and squabbling seems to be the central cause of the nation’s current angst – and the production served as something of a pressure-relief valve in the zeitgeist, exorcising certain pent-up demons from both the turn of the millennium and today. “I don’t know that I’ve ever worked on a show that audiences watch the way they watch this one,” says Ashley. “I’ve continued to be impressed by how specific everyone’s memories are of that week in their own lives... The issues of the story, the question of how do you be kind enough, generous enough, how do we take care of each other better keeps on being current in the world we live in, in new ways every week.”
Even now, after spending years with the material, Come From Away’s embracing, altruistic ethos continues to stoke Ashley’s creative fires as he prepares to launch the latest production at Los Angeles’ legendary Ahmanson Theatre. “I feel like a story about people being incredibly generous with their time, with their homes, keeps on being a story that is worth telling in new ways,” he explains. And he’s not immune to the considerable allure of the Ahmanson himself, a source of many profoundly rewarding memories for Ashley. “I’ve just seen so many extraordinary theatrical events in that space that I get a chill when I walk in the door,” he reveals. “I’ve probably seen 50 shows in the Ahmanson through the years, and the theatre magic that has happened in those walls. It’s an honor to be part of that
arts Homes in which to enjoy basking, Ashley admits he remains gob-smacked by the degree of decidedly warm-and-fuzzy rewards that came his way. “The thing I didn’t expect about winning a Tony is that for months and months and months, you walk around the world and people just beam goodwill at you,” he chuckles. “People express happiness for you all the time, and that’s a really great experience. I hope everybody gets to experience a version of it at some point.”
magic...And I can’t think of a richer place to tell that story than in Los Angeles, which has this incredibly diverse, rich culture, and what a great place to tell this story about people imagining a world where we’re more generous with each other, and more connected, and we keep enlarging the idea about what our tribe is.”
ife, work and art quickly became intertwined in the creation of Come From Away, and Ashley admits that the profundity of his own personal experience was palpable, especially because he was in New York City during the events of 9/11. “My feelings about it were complicated and completely unresolved when we started this process,” he confesses. “So for me, there was an amazing journey to put some kind of closure on those events. And it’s Theatreland:
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been such an amazing experience for me to replace some of my really raw and upset feelings about that week with some stories about the best that humans can be.” There’s a reason, Ashley suggests, that he’s far from exhausted the creative energy he’s willing to funnel into fresh incarnations of Come From Away. “One of the things I love about running La Jolla Playhouse is I’m free to work on my passion projects,” he says. “As you get to program your own sandbox, you get to make sure that the plays and musicals that you’re working on are the ones you care passionately about, and I can’t think of a more passionate passion project than this one.”
Come From Away director Christopher Ashley.
“I’ve probably seen 50 shows in the Ahmanson through the years, and the theatre magic that has happened in those walls. It’s an honor to be part of that magic.”
his has been in my life for six years now, and rehearsing this play is as exciting now as it was on day one of rehearsal,” he says, noting how contending with the show’s deft but demanding staging can be all-consuming for its actors. “I love the experience of watching a new cast enter the rehearsal room and take on the challenge of holding this play in their head, holding all of the details and truly supporting each other.” “There’s something about the staging that I hope mirrors the generosity of the people in Gander that week,” he adds. “No cast for this show could perform our production without really taking care of each other. They’re passing each other props, they’re passing each other costume pieces all night long. And helping a group of people bond together and learn how to take care of each other feels like such a great way to spend a life.”
Come From Away will be at the Ahmanson Theatre from November 28, 2018 to January 6, 2019. For tickets, visit www.ctgla.org.
The original Broadway cast of Come From Away. Photos by Matthew Murphy.
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Michael Ritchie NAME Michael Ritchie BUSINESS CARD Artistic Director, Center Theatre Group CHALLENGE 10 Questions in (Almost) 10 Seconds EAST SIDE OR WEST SIDE? East Side BEST TACOS IN LA? El Siete Mares on Sunset Blvd. FAVORITE WEEKEND ACTIVITY? Santa Anita Racetrack BEST PLACE TO SEE A CONCERT? The Greek YOUR GO-TO COCKTAIL? Club Soda and Bitters FIRST CAR? Ford Torino BEST PART OF YOUR JOB? Standing in the back of a theatre and watching an audience fall in love with a show. PERSONAL MANTRA? “Don’t get into a pissing contest if you don’t know which way the wind is blowing.” LAST THING YOU GOOGLED? The train schedule from LA to San Diego BEST WAY TO SPEND AN EVENING IN LA? Going to the theatre, of course!
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