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Alfred Molina rehearsing Red. photo by craig schwartz.

Fall 2012 center theatre group’s new play production newsletter

Celebrating New Play Production’s Commitment to New Voices!

a note from the director of npp

5 years and counting npp interview with

Alfred Molina an interview with

Jennifer Haley & Marco Ramirez musing on criticism

CenterTheatreGroup.org/NPP

The Critic, One of Us


Art Imitating Education . . . . . . 11 The Critic, One of Us. . . . . . . . 12 A Number. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 That Moment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Say It Loud!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

artistic staff

Michael Ritchie artistic director

artisticdirector@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Neel Keller associate artistic director

nkeller@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Kelley Kirkpatrick associate artistic director

kkirkpatrick@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Diane Rodriguez associate producer director of new play production

a note from the director of npp

drodriguez@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Pier Carlo Talenti resident dramaturg/ literary manager

ptalenti@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Lindsay Allbaugh producing associate

lallbaugh@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Malcolm K. Darrell new play production associate mdarrell@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Joy Meads literary associate

and counting!

jmeads@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Erika Sellin director of casting

esellin@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Mark Simon casting director

msimon@CenterTheatreGroup.org

Andy Crocker casting associate

Kevin Cordova casting administrator kcordova@CenterTheatreGroup.org

new play production newsletter fall/2012

editor Diane Rodriguez managing editor Malcolm K. Darrell copy editor Nancy Hereford graphic designer Haruka Hayakawa general manager Nausica Stergiou assistant general manager, new play production Katie Bruner Soff special thanks Dan Harper Deeksha Gaur Phyllis Moberly npp 2

E. Jason Liebrecht in I’ve Never Been So Happy. photo by craig schwartz.

acrocker@CenterTheatreGroup.org

diane rodriguez

W

e have been publishing our newsletter for five years now. When we started in early 2007, the thought of a president of color was a dream deferred, we were in the aftermath of Katrina and no one had seen the 21st century devastation of a tsunami. Five years ago the world was iPad-less and the weather wasn’t this freaky or was it? In celebration of our 5th anniversary we’ve decided it was time for a format change. Nothing should stay the same, not hairdos, not hemlines, not newsletter formats. We published the first printed version in the spring. Print was already passé but I liked the nostalgia of feeling the paper and turning the pages and keeping a copy on my desk. We’re still going to publish printed copies but we will launch an online, color version with full articles, video, links and the ability to update quickly—all very fancy, necessary stuff of today. Over

the years we realized that the Happy; Poor Behavior and Los articles that spoke to us the Otros. When we began the most were the interviews and newsletter, our primary focus conversations with the artists was developing the work of we were supporting. Theatre playwrights. Now we also artists who enthusiastically whole-heartedly embrace the contributed to our venture development and production with never a complaint or of collaborative creation. fashion faux pas were: Lisa Five years ago we hadn’t Peterson, Robert O’Hara, conceived of DouglasPlus— Octavio Solis, Juliette a producing model that offers Carrillo, Steve Cosson, Lisa our audiences a range of Kron, Eric Rosen, Charlayne aesthetics with shorter runs Woodard, Geoff Sobelle, Phil and single ticket sales. The Soltanoff, Dael idea of a local Orlandersmith, Kirk CTG Writers’ Lynn, Guillermo Workshop that “Nothing Aviles-Rodriguez, recruited new Teeko Parran, Ken should stay members yearly Roht, Steve Epp, had not entered the same.” the zeitgeist. Matthew McCray, Mildred Ruiz, Wren The Mark Taper T. Brown, Michael Forum hadn’t Arabian, Lana Lesley and been remodeled since it was Danai Gurira. Since 2007 built way back in the 1960s. we’ve premiered crazy, fun, There have been lots of serious, seminal work like changes. So, we’re tightening Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson; our seat belts and holding Sleeping Beauty Wakes; on for the next fast and Minsky’s; The Projectionist; furious five-year-ride that will Venice; 9 to 5: The Musical; challenge us to listen, reflect, Yellow Face; Of Equal Measure; and respond to what artists Leap of Faith; Bengal Tiger are saying and needing. What at the Baghdad Zoo; Harps do you say? Let’s all change and Angels; Bones; Palestine, together as we believe, create New Mexico; The Wake; The and do theatre. Onward. Convert; I’ve Never Been So

Khandi Alexander in Bones. photo by craig schwartz.

Fall 2012

5 Years and Counting. . . . . . . . 2 Interview with Alfred Molina. . 4 Playing in the Sandbox. . . . . . . 8 Why Theatre? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Interview with Jennifer Haley & Marco Ramirez. . . . . . . . . . 10

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson Sleeping Beauty W Minsky’s The Projectionist Venice 9 to 5: The Musical Yellow Face Of Equal Measure Leap of Faith Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo Harps and Angels Bones Palestine New Mex The Wake The Convert I’ve Never Been So Poor Behavior Los Otros Sheila Vand in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. photo by craig schwartz.

what’s inside

npp 3


“I think excellence is about finding the one thing, the one idea, the one concept, the one belief, if you like, the one faith that absolutely, as far the artist is concerned, is the only one worth pursuing.”

npp interview with

Alfred Molina is a Tony Award-nominated actor whose work has been seen on London, New York and Los Angeles stages and who has been featured in numerous films and television series. He was recently in residence with Center Theatre Group in the Donmar Warehouse production of Red at the Mark Taper Forum.

diane rodriguez I find it really fascinating that you’re doing Red, a play about an artist who, like you, worked in America and was born in another country. Rothko had this success and yet he was so pained by that success. You’re having success here and you seem to embrace it. As a child of immigrants do you share a common ground with Rothko?

Alfred Molina in Red. photo by craig schwartz.

alfred molina I think his experience as an immigrant was probably similar to many immigrants’ experiences when they come to a country, especially when they are really young, because it is a choice that they didn’t necessarily make. It’s a choice that their parents made. I think he always seemed to have a kind of ambivalence toward being in America. There are lots of stories that he always felt outside, always felt slightly disenfranchised and that may be reflected somehow in the work, in the way he applied himself to the work.

In the play his studio is described as a submarine. He blocked out all natural light. The place was always locked. It was a dark, intimate, private environment where he worked. The only other npp 4

person allowed in there was his assistant. When visitors did come, when patrons came to look at his paintings with a view toward buying, there was never any work going on. He would turn up in his suit and he would be like a salesman. So no one was ever in there while he was working. He created this environment that was very private, and his life in a sense was also very private. Even though he enjoyed great success and would do occasional interviews, he only ever talked about the work, he never talked about himself. So, I think the immigrant experience was important, but I think it’s not necessarily the same experience that all immigrants have. People emigrate for all sorts of reasons, usually economic, more often that not. Certainly my parents emigrated from their respective countries to England, and I have now immigrated to America from there so I understand that sense of displacement. I know what it does to you. I know how it makes you feel and I know how you rationalize it and how you get over it. And I would imagine Rothko did the same thing. But to what extent it informed the work, npp 5


npp interview with

l to r: Jonathan Groff and Alfred Molina in Red. photos by craig schwartz.

to what extent it actually an argument that da Vinci or made him paint the way he Michelangelo were having with did, I don’t know. I think his their patrons, I should imagine. work developed over a long Rothko was very much on the period of years. I mean he side of excellence. I think he was painting was not part of and studying that group that back in the 30s “I understand thought elitism, or when he was being elitist, was a that sense of a young man dirty word, which and he evolved has become. I displacement, itthink into the painter for Rothko that we see elitism to do I know what it with thehad in the play struggle when he was does to you.” and the aspiration already in his to excellence, mid to late 50s, the desire for very established. He created excellence, the hard work his own voice. His voice is involved in the pursuit of quintessentially American, excellence, and the consequent particularly when you look at cutting off and isolating what was going on in other yourself from anything else parts of the world at that that distracts you from same time. that. There is a price to be paid for excellence in any dr What is so evocative about field. Populism is all about the piece is the argument inclusiveness, it is all about about “popular” and what having something for everyone. people “like,” versus elite I think excellence is about art. Rothko did not consider finding the one thing, the one himself a populist. He idea, the one concept, the one developed his work with rigor, belief, if you like, the one faith research and time which made that absolutely, as far the artist the work expensive. Can you is concerned, is the only one expand a bit on that argument worth pursuing. excavated in the play? And so there is bound to be am Populism versus a clash over that. I think we excellence is very interesting touch on that in the play. I and it’s timeless. I think it is think that was part of Rothko’s npp 6

struggle at the time because pop art, which was the up-andcoming generation following fast on his heels, was very much an example of populism, of something for everyone. You know at one point in the play Ken says, “Sometimes you just want a still life. You just want a soup can or a comic book. Why not?” Exactly. Rothko says, “You know, in a few years, Warhol won’t even be remembered.” And Ken responds “Well they are hanging next to you now.” Obviously, they’ve lasted and there is a place for both. But it’s not one or the other. dr

am We throw these words around like “elitist” but they’ve sort of changed their meaning. They’ve become weapons, these words. People never say, “Well I’m proud to say I’ve finally reached the level of an elitist because my work…” You’re never complimented for being elite; you’re actually accused of being elitist. It is an accusation now: “Oh you know, so and so is so elitist.” But the truth is originally it meant something else. It meant wanting to achieve and create the best of something, the very very best, with the very best you could possibly do and it’s

a shame we’ve lost that side of it. In other words, I think we’ve confused elitism with snobbery. dr Yes. Sometimes as an artist you need that isolation. You need to separate yourself to be able to create something. am That’s right. I mean, artists, creative people who create something that stands independently of them, fine artists, sculptors, writers, they create something which they can then distance themselves from. You can be a fan of a particular writer, and read all their books, love their books, can’t wait for the next one and you can feasibly spend your whole life without any clue about that writer, without knowing even what they might look like. You can look at beautiful paintings and not have a clue about the artist. It’s not quite the same with actors, or dancers, or singers; you know the art is of them, not necessarily by them. The advantage that writers and fine artists have is they can lock themselves away for months at a time. And that is absolutely crucial for their creativity. dr Yes, because it is basically a solo art form and what we’re doing here—in the theatre—is

actually working on and within that set. am Yeah, absolutely. Well I think that part of the joy of the play is that we aren’t just a couple of people playing artists talking their art. You know that’s a whole other kind of play. In this play you see us actually mixing paint, building frames, stretching canvases, priming a canvas, cleaning up the mess afterwards, it’s all a working environment. We all know we’re watching a play. But if we can make it as authentic as possible, I think that’s the clue.

am Well I hope so and thank you! I think the real secret with any role that you play, it’s always in the writing. It’s always how that character expresses himself. How he or she communicates whatever it is that they need to speak. The great thing about John Logan’s writing is that he hasn’t written this kind of 90-minute rant where Rothko goes off and dr In the play your character excoriates everybody who he actually talks about the thinks is terrible and just gives paintings having feelings. the young artist a “what for?” A lesser writer might have am Absolutely. done that. But what he’s given the actor who plays Rothko is dr And you don’t want them such a nuanced journey where to be by themselves, that they you don’t just see the kind of intellectual vigor, you don’t just have company wherever they see the irritation, you don’t just might hang. see the point—I mean there am That’s right. Certainly for are moments when he does Rothko, the paintings were get very angry and very very living things. I don’t think he aggressive—but you also see actually thought they were the terrible vulnerability of this man, you see the terrible doubt, human or anything like that. In the same way a bottle of this awful, kind of terrible self wine is alive. It changes and doubt; this sense of a man if it is looked after it will pay looking, possibly, looking at dividends, if you know what the future and seeing himself I mean. I think not there. A man that’s what he obsessed in a felt about his way with perhaps “Certainly paintings, that his legacy; a man given time, given frightened of the for Rothko, some attention, future, frightened the paintings given some care, that he may have the viewer will lost touch; a were living keep finding man who is, in a something in way, terrified of things.” them, finding being irrelevant. something And I think that redemptive. He never asks modulates this and stops it anyone in the play, “What do from being one-note. So there you think it is?” All he wants are lots of changes, lots of different tones, lots of different to know is how it makes you feel. And that was the great modulations of the part, and breakthrough of abstract that is what we go for. expressionists. They weren’t dr The set, it’s so practical, interested in what it was. It like a workroom, it’s like didn’t matter what it was. It’s watching performance art— how it made you feel. That something Lori Anderson was the moment when art was might do in an installation cracked right open, because no piece. The two of you are one asked that before. We were

obsessed with the technique. Suddenly, we were obsessed with how it is making us feel. And that was his great gift. dr Okay, lastly, I am going to do a series of questions and you are just going to give me the first thing that comes to your head. am

Oh okay—word association!

dr

Word association.

am

Ooooooh!

dr

What’s your favorite color?

am

Blue

Alfred Molina in Red. photo by craig schwartz.

a collaborative one. I wanted to talk about your performance because you do such an amazing job and it is a tough part. I felt it was very nuanced. Can you talk a little about finding those levels?

dr Who is your hero living or dead? am

My Dad

dr What actor was the most fun to work with? am

Victor Garber

dr Where is your favorite place to live? am

Rome

dr Where do you retreat when things are stressful? am

My bed

dr What artist inspires you to be better? am

Anthony Hopkins

dr

What is your favorite dish?

am

Pasta

dr Embarrassing moment in your career? am When I thought I could really act! (laughter) dr

One word we need more of?

am

Love

dr

One guilty pleasure?

am

Chocolate

npp 7


Two playwrights extend unique invitations to the play-making party

pier carlo talenti

laywright Julie Marie Myatt and writer/performer Will Power, the most recent recipients of CTG’s William James Fadiman Playwriting Award, proved to be as imaginative in fulfilling the residency portion of their award as they are in their writing. And in the process they reminded us of the unique power theatre artists have in fostering community and bringing new perspectives and voices into our art.

l to r: Justin Ellington, Chandra Wilson, Will Power, Shana Redmond and Pier Carlo Talenti. photo by ryan miller/capture imaging.

The William James Fadiman Award was established at Center Theatre Group in 2000 thanks to a generous gift from the late Regina K. Fadiman in honor of her npp 8

husband and former CTG board member, William James Fadiman. The award supports the commissioning of a new play by the recipient as well as a one-week residency at CTG. Past recipients have included Kia Corthron, whose Fadimansupported play Slide Glide the Slippery Slope we produced in 2004; Chuck Mee, whose A Perfect Wedding opened the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2005; and Dael Orlandersmith, whose play Bones upended our traditional producing model when we premiered it in 2010.

for their generosity, wanted to give them a chance to put their impressive knowledge to theatrical use. So through the month of July she taught seven past experts a playwriting class. Her pupils were an immensely accomplished bunch, including author and designer of theatrical illusions Jim Steinmeyer, photojournalist and documentary photographer Marissa Roth and neuropsychologist and gerontologist Rebecca Melrose. The class culminated with a reading by professional actors of the students’ brand-new 10-minute plays. “Julie’s class allowed me to realize a dream that I have had for most of my life,” said new playwright Brenda Stevenson, Professor of History at UCLA. “It pushed me to think of subjects I am passionate about in new and revelatory ways.”

What is remarkable about Myatt and Power, our 2010 and 2011 recipients respectively, is that they used their residency to connect two extraordinary groups to CTG and to theatre in general. Julie, who was once a member of CTG’s Writers’ Workshop, proposed offering a playwriting master class to everyone who had served the Writers’ Workshop as guest expert. In the last several years, For his residency project, Will 85 guest experts—including Power decided he wanted to renowned chefs, historians lead a class with, as he put it, and law enforcement officials— “storytellers who don’t consider have attended our salons and themselves to be playwrights.” served as resources to member He was hoping to work in a playwrights. Julie, thankful room with a mix of composers,

Will Power. photo by ryan/miller capture imaging.

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In other words, we’ve had a really invigorating summer.

daniel alexander jones

“W

Jomama Jones in Radiate. photo by craig schwartz.

Chandra Wilson. photo by ryan miller/capture imaging.

a note from the resident dramaturg/literary manager

poets and spoken-word artists, the first singer ever to perform and we therefore assembled “The Ain’t Gonna Move Blues,” an eclectic and hugely talented and the 70 theatre lovers group of artists, including gathered in the Kirk Douglas composers Kathryn Bostic, Theatre’s rehearsal room Matt Gould and Ariana were the first ever to hear it. Delawari and poets Gabriela USC Assistant Professor of Garcia Medina and Mayda Del American Studies and Ethnicity Valle, to spend a week with Shana Redmond then joined him in one of our rehearsal Wilson, Power and Ellington rooms. The exchange of ideas to discuss the remarkable and energy was infectious. women at the heart of this new Says Delawari, “I’m a musician musical. Our audience was who grew up in the theatre, very vocal about how thrilled so this is really the first time they were to be there at the I started actually melding the start of a new musical and different types of art that I how they could not wait to have cultivated in my life. It follow its growth over the next was totally exhilarating and I couple of years. We at CTG left wanting to write a musical.” were excited to build a local fan base for Will and Justin We also used Will’s week and for a new project still in in Los Angeles to launch its infancy. I’m so grateful to Sandbox @ CTG, a new Julie and Will for their curiosity, program designed to get our for having found innovative audiences invested in new ways to introduce new works of theatre when they minds and talents to theatreare still just glints in their making and for inspiring us creators’ eyes. The idea behind to invite our audiences to Sandbox @ CTG is to remind appreciate and witness the our patrons that theatre is a making of new work. What’s collaborative art of ideas and remarkable about theatre to give them a peek behind is that every performance, the curtain of theatre-making workshop or reading is a in its earliest stages. To that reciprocal conversation end, Will Power and composer between the artist, the art and Justin Ellington introduced the the spectator. By introducing audience to a brand-new song so many diverse voices— from their CTG-commissioned composers, poets, historians, musical about the relationship photographers and our most between Ma Rainey and Bessie committed audiences—to Smith. The amazing and how theatre is made and generous Chandra Wilson was even engaging them in the creative process, Julie and Will have helped us enrich the conversations all of us at CTG are having with our communities of artists and with one another.

hy theatre? For me, it’s because something happens when we living, breathing people come together in a room, and when we’re on stage with those lights on us, something gets revealed. And for me, what gets revealed is that the invisible world is made visible. Our shadows, the things we don’t show one another in everyday life, suddenly we see them. They come through. The great actors, the great actresses are somehow able to do that, right? They find ways to open those portals and give us a window in so that we can see all of the thoughts, all of the struggles, all of the contradictions inside. We make visible—if you will, go with me here—we make visible the alternative realities that run alongside and sometimes interpenetrate our own realities. In the theatre, it’s possible for me to become her [Jomama Jones]. In the theatre, it’s possible for a shy person to suddenly get up and dance. In the theatre, it’s possible for a kind of argument—you know, the ones that feel like those old family arguments that are never gonna die and people are gonna kill each other—it’s possible to watch people transform that circumstance, to change that argument, to find a solution, and thereby model it to us out here. Because the stories we tell ourselves shape the way we are able to perceive our reality. They just do.” npp 9


l to r: Marco Ramirez and Jennifer Haley. photo by malcom k. darrell.

Title Here an interview with

marco ramirez

into rehearsals can bring your faces way too close to the canvas. Whereas dealing with playwrights who have never read the first draft, have no personal attachment to it, is almost like a focus group.

joy meads Recently Joy Meads, CTG’s Literary Associate, sat down with CTG Writers’ Workshop Alumni Jennifer Haley and Marco Ramirez. CTG is producing world premieres by both Jennifer and Marco in the Kirk Douglas Theatre’s 2012-13 Season. Grab a cup of joe or tea and learn more about two of America’s fascinating new voices in the theatre. joy meads Both of you have been members of CTG’s Writers’ Workshop. Our group is just one of a number of playwrights’ groups that have been created nationwide over the last few years. Can you talk about why getting feedback from other writers is helpful? jennifer haley The best thing about working with playwrights is this, because they’re doing the same work, in some ways they know how to couch their feedback. marco ramirez

It’s also helpful to get notes from people who often will never see the play again. Talking to the same director about a play for six months before going npp 10

jh

I was just at a Cinco de Mayo party and I was telling someone about how everyone you work with—directors, actors, everyone—can influence your work in a very good way. He thought playwrights were these lone rangers: that we just go into a room and it’s all our vision. I’m sure there are playwrights like that, but I’m not one of them. I’m very open to what people tell me, and then I have to be very careful with my filter. But the door is open: for comments, for mentorship, in whatever form it comes. mr And sometimes it comes from the person you’re working with directly, and sometimes it comes from the best play you read that year. I know I’ve told you this before, but Neighborhood Three was the play that made me want to write plays again. I was close to quitting... jh

You didn’t tell me that!

mr I think I geekily told you, “it was so good.” I totally geeked out. And I hadn’t met you yet, but I consider those seventy pages someone sent me in a word document my mentor for that year.

jennifer haley

jm Let’s talk about what makes you distinct. I feel like I could blind read a Jen Haley or a Marco Ramirez play from anywhere and know who had written it. Have you always had a strong sense of your voice, or is it something you had to discover? jh I had to learn that. It was always there, but I had to become more aware of—and cannier with—form in order to express content the way I wanted to, in more imaginative ways. For me, graduate school was the turning point. I went in with a raw talent and great ideas, reaching for structures and halfway achieving them. The turning point for me came when I pushed myself to work on things that frightened me because they were so new, as opposed to staying in tracks I’d used before. Now I want every play I write to be radically different in some ways from anything I’ve written before. And that’s really fun. But it took that environment to push me into a new way of writing.

I wrote this ten-minute play called I’m not Batman. It was really simple. Just a monologue play with an actor and a drummer intercut, I’m an amateur drummer, and I had very specific drum moments I wanted to use. It was short and sweet and simple, but I remember feeling like I can bring my stupid obsessions and any instinct I have in terms of rhythm and mr

language to theatre and that’s okay. That might be my voice. jm Yeah, it’s that thing that Jen was talking about, about always doing the thing that scares you. Taking the next leap.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about your amazing plays. What are they about? jh The Nether takes place a bit in the future, where virtual reality is where people live and work. For some this is a choice, but it’s also because there are so few resources that it’s the only way the economy can stay moving: there are no more trees and people can’t travel anymore because there’s no more fuel. And the Nether is still kind of a wild West. Everyone can create their own realm and you can go to any realm you like, you can be anyone you like, you can do anything you like. jm Marco, how would you describe your play? mr The Royale is a play about boxing. It’s inspired by the story of Jack Johnson becoming the first black heavyweight champion of the world in the early 1900s. The play starts out being about whether or not he’s going to get a shot at the title and becomes about whether or not he should take the shot at doing it.

jm It’s interesting that you say that you’re a bit of a drummer, because I see that in your writing. You capture the rhythms and energy of a really good match, the intrinsic pleasures of the sport, and infuse them into the dramatic story as well. mr And that’s the reason writing a play about a great athlete was more interesting to me than writing a play about someone who could be great. Focusing on Jack Johnson made perfect sense to me because watching videos of him fighting (and there are a couple of silent films), you see this element of swagger. He’s two people at the same time. He’s in the fight, but he’s also standing back, watching the fight with a grin on his face. It’s the way you watch LeBron James play basketball; there’s never any doubt in your mind that he’s going to win, it’s entirely about how he’s going to win. Or, in this play, it’s about whether he should win. jh I don’t know if this is a tangent, but we’re having this interview on the day Obama announced that he supports gay marriage. mr

Absolutely.

jh I was listening to an indepth conversation about it on the radio as I was driving here today, and I thought “Oh my god. It seems like such a haul, but slowly we move forward.” I tend to read news and get depressed, but I thought I have to remember, “Jennifer, there’s good news. The president of our country, who we elected, is coming out for gay marriage.” mr And it’s not all-inclusive —he might lose the next election—but the fact that someone in his position said what he did won’t change. So even if Mitt Romney becomes president, the growth doesn’t stop. The fish already came out of the water, and even if it dies on the beach, that was step one. The next one might have little feet.

Imitating Education W

laural meade Laural Meade is a Los Angeles-based playwright who is one of three local playwrights recently commissioned by CTG to write about California. CTG’s Student Advisory Committee, a group of theatre interested high school students, assisted her research by interviewing peers, parents, teachers and administrators at schools throughout Los Angeles. Laural is tackling a play about California’s educational system. Here are her thoughts about the process thus far.

hen I first met the 20 beautiful Student Advisory Committee souls from CTG’s Education and Community Partnerships programming they were in the interview phase. Everyone had a smiling game face on, hell-bent on both team-playing and standing out. I thought to myself, watching them collectively build structures made of straws with one hand tied behind their backs, “If these kids are our future leaders, thank God—we’re saved!” I went on to realize, beyond the insightful research they graciously provided for my playwriting, that indeed these young people (and others like them) can and will solve the problems we’ve created if they’re allowed to. They dream big. They collaborate like gang-busters. They embrace technology (unlike me) with fervor and delight. They are honest about the deep and real trouble we’re in while remaining thoroughly positive and solution-oriented. Finally (on not an altogether unrelated note), they were all stylishly

dressed for every session. They cared. It seems to have meant a great deal that a group of empowered adults asked them, in an organized and long-form way, about their lives. And then created a space for the students to explore and respond in a complex manner that was selfdirected. For me, complexity became the hallmark of the experience. It has been and will be the cornerstone of my play’s thematic. I recall a line from their presentation, asked by a frustrated artist character: “Why do I have to learn the speed of light if I’m gonna study theatre?!” And, in response, the palpable shiver that went through the very supportive adult audience. It signaled that we all knew the essential answer to the question and, at the same time, realized the near impossible challenge of reaching these students (and moreover the great multitudes of their peers without the same advantages) with not only the answer but the desire and opportunity to know.

3rd from right: Laural Meade receives student research from the 2012 Student Advisory Committee. photo by michael farmer photography. npp 11


I kirk lynn Kirk Lynn is one of six Co-Producing Artistic Directors of Rude Mechs in Austin, TX. He frequently contributes as a writer to much of the company’s work. Most recently he wrote The Method Gun and the book and lyrics for Rude Mechs’ first musical, I’ve Never Been So Happy, both of which had CTG runs.

“We should invite critics to the party more often, so they won’t mishear or misunderstand our noise.”

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like to imagine critics. I like to imagine they get paid at least as well as I do. I like to imagine they live in a house like mine. That they have books more or less like my books. That they have miles and miles of vinyl. And when the sun goes down and the tea is put on to boil, the critic is able to pick just the right album to set the mood and snuggle up with just the right volume so the whole house hums with contentment. The critic’s wife is happy, because he knows, of the several methods of wife-pleasing, which is the best. The critic’s baby sleeps through the night, because the critic found the best book on sleep-training, one you and I would love to have as adults. And the tea the critic sips is the best in the world, imported from a new continent some of us are just beginning to read about in The New Yorker, or hear rumors of on NPR. The tea tastes like the inside of an angel’s mouth, that is, this flavor is an angel’s neutral, the holy creatures don’t even notice it, but you and I would orgasm to get a whiff. I have spent years exercising my imagination to make it as inaccurate as possible. I have a lot of work left to do. But I know I have no idea what most critics’ lives are like. What a job though. To get paid to look at art. The trouble is the critic

is not paid to look at art. The critic is paid to think and speak publicly about the art he or she has been looking at, listening to, and eating. Oh no. I don’t know that we should speak publicly about art. My spiritual leaders are all very quiet. And my god may be the act of creation itself. You hear the phrase sometimes, “The God of Creation...” It is so easy to mishear and to misunderstand that phrase to mean creation is a god, or can be...I worship my god the same way I worship my friends, by making more of them. I want my last party to be very big. I want the cops to come, as guests. And I want critics at my funeral. But if a critic is paid to speak publicly about art, to whom does the critic direct his address? This is an easy set of questions, right? Who is the critic speaking to? Who is the critic speaking for? Could most critics tell you? Probably. I would guess 90% of critics understand these questions almost perfectly. But what about the public? Could most of the people in range of the critic’s broadcast tell you who is being addressed? I don’t know about that. I think when we hear someone speaking publicly it’s easy to mishear and to misunderstand. When we hear somebody speaking publicly it’s easy to assume that we’re the intended audience. We’re the public,

In the future there will be an algorithm inserted into our brains to help us sort other people’s ideas into folders: the ideas we want to hear, the ideas we need to hear, our mother’s ideas about everything, and the thoughts we can easily dismiss without ever having to actually hear them. It will be like an infinitely refined customer recommendation algorithm for Netflix or iTunes (systems that are seldom wrong, haha). The idea behind these algorithms is to save money that would go toward paying a critic to write reviews and commentary and leave us to guide to ourselves by the wavering light of our own taste. Once these algorithms are implanted in my brain I wonder which thoughts I will listen to the most? I want to believe I would spend all my time in the “thoughts I need to hear” folder. But given the way I use the internet I would probably spend all my time in the “thoughts I could dismiss without ever having to actually hear them” folder. The only escape is to imagine the critic not as some other, but as one of us. As a neighbor and a friend we can keep an eye on, lend a hand to when he or she is seeing so much art that the lawn gets out of hand or the plumbing springs a leak. We should invite critics to the party more often, so they won’t mishear or misunderstand our noise. We don’t want them calling the cops on us, or thinking we’re reckless, or that we threw the party for ourselves. And I don’t want my funeral to be the first time they see me face to face, when it’s too late to explain things. I will be smiling then, but unable to make any new friends as the warming taste of creation itself blooms in my mouth and feeds to the earth.

counting the stories

25,000

3

artists The approximate number of artists who participated in the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival

$247,010,488

Total Box Office Gross for Summer*—Broadway

$4,080,840,399

The number of productions CTG’s commissioned play Elephant Room had before it premiered on one of our stages

l to r: Louie Magic, Dennis Diamond and Daryl Hannah in Elephant Room. photo by craig schwartz.

One of Us

after all. We can hear these thoughts coming out of this person. They must be meant for us.

London 2012.

Crit c, The

productions

Total Box Office Gross for Summer**—Movie

* June 20–September 2. source: Broadway League. ** May 4–September 3. source: BoxofficeMojo.com.

84 years old

The age of acting legend Alan Mandell when he played Estragon in CTG’s critically acclaimed 2012 production of Waiting for Godot

400 times and counting...

The number of times Barry McGovern has performed in Waiting for Godot l to r: Alan Mandell and Barry McGovern in CTG’s Waiting for Godot. photo by craig schwartz. npp 13


O

ften, as practitioners, administrators, producers of theatre, we don’t get a chance to reflect on what’s impacted us of late. Below are a few responses from CTG‘s Artistic Staff about a recent inspirational artistic moment.

michael ritchie ctg artictic director

My greatest inspiration came not necessarily in the theatre itself but backstage on the evening that CTG sponsored the Los Angeles Regional August Wilson Monologue “competition.” I put quotes around the word because the atmosphere backstage was anything but the classic definition of competitive. These students were clearly there to do their personal best, but the spirit of collective support was tangible, real and inspiring to see. If our future leaders were represented that evening, we will continue to be a thriving collaborative art form well into the future. Tyler Edwards at the AWMC Regional Competition held at the Mark Taper Forum. photo by ryan miller/ capture imaging. npp 14

diane rodriguez ctg associate producer/ director of new play production

Winter in New York City 2012—I saw two plays back-toback that were very different in tone and style, but in both, the director’s work was revelatory. One was Mariano Pensotti who directed his own play El Pasado es Un Animal Grotesco (The Past is a Grotesque Animal). The set was a very roughhewn turntable divided into four spaces or rooms. It rotated slowly the entire performance. The actors never stepped off but rather moved from divide to divide, sharing a microphone when it was their turn to either narrate or act in the scene. The piece followed the lives of four characters over 10 years. It was so simple but added another

dimension to the storytelling that lifted the piece and made it more than good but great. The next night I saw John Tiffany’s Once at New York Theatre Workshop. The transitions alone were another play and he would surprise us as to when they would end. Live music and recorded sound meshed in a way that supported each other and didn’t compete. He hid nothing. Everyone sat on stage and played their instruments and then put them down to act in a scene. It wasn’t that it was necessarily innovative but he combined many elements together to make this musical fresh and inspiring.

pier carlo talenti ctg resident dramaturg/ literary manager

The house lights came up for the five-minute entr’acte between scenes 1 and 2 of Mr. Burns at Woolly Mammoth, and the audience immediately burst into full-throated conversation, as though they literally could not wait to turn to their neighbor and talk about what they’d just seen, venture guesses about it, and imagine what the

The Company of Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC. photo by scott suchman.

subsequent scenes might look like. The audience’s buzzing about the play was almost as transporting as what we’d just seen onstage. It was electric and very, very fun.

erika sEllin ctg director of casting

In January 2012, heading to snowy Princeton and attending opening night for The Convert at the McCarter Theatre was a thrill, after three years of development, various workshops and casts, a director change and auditioning in four cities. Experiencing the culmination of work and collaboration in a riveting production, followed by the fact that the piece continued to thrive and strengthen during the journey to the other two theatres, the Goodman in Chicago and then us...exhilarating!

mark b. simon ctg casting director

Meeting artists at the start

of a new project always inspires! Recently seeing Will Power and Justin Ellington

present their first song for the Bessie Smith/Ma Rainey play they’re developing was such a moment. Another was meeting Daniel Alexander Jones at our CTG Artist Brown Bag lunch. Listening to Daniel talk to us about the creation and history behind his piece, Jomama Jones: Radiate, really great stuff!

kelley kirkpatrick ctg associate artistic director

Last June, I had the privilege of seeing a reading of The Fortress of Solitude (music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, book by Itamar Moses and conceived and directed by Daniel Aukin) at New York Stage and Film at Vassar Collage. This reading was particularly special for me as I had been involved in its development for the last three years until this past February when CTG had to pass on producing the show for financial reasons. During this development process, there were two two-week script workshops, a one-day reading, a two-week choreography workshop and a four-week fully staged and choreographed workshop. People in the industry attended most of the

readings and workshops; none was open to the public. But the first public reading of the play at Vassar was really what brought it all together for me. It was the play unveiled in its simplest form. I was able to sit alongside the everyday theatregoer without a notepad in my hand and experience Fortress with them as a civilian. And even though I wasn’t involved in this particular reading, I was no less proud to be there. Proud knowing I helped Fortress grow to become what it was that

night I experienced it alongside my fellow theatregoers. It was thrilling, simply thrilling.

malcom k. darrell ctg new play production associate

Listening to the Ebony Repertory Theatre’s production of A Raisin in the Sun at the Kirk Douglas Theatre on

several evenings of tech and performance reminded me that while we now produce many a classic play on our stages, they too were once new voices before the term was ubiquitous and in vogue. Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal American classic soared in this production directed with aplomb by Phylicia Rashad. Ms. Hansberry’s words rang out with renewed and timeless harmony reminding us that the human condition, while ever evolving, still continues to struggle with the issues of love, loss, success, failure, legacy, community and faith. Ms. Hansberry’s voice spoke to me, my people, our CTG community and urged us to stay vigilant in our quest to uplift new voices in the American Theatre, for it may be a voice that speaks a fresh word, leaving an indelible impression on generations to come.

l to r: Brandon David Brown and Kevin T. Carroll in the Ebony Repertory Theatre production of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. photo by craig schwartz. npp 15


Non-Profit Org US Postage

PAID

Center Theatre Group

601 West Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

“The

Earth without is just Eh.”

“Sometimes different is better if only because it makes us stop and consider languages and cultures and ideas not our own.” polly carl howlround

quotes from the field

“When an African woman decides enough is enough and she steps into her courage, it’s the most powerful thing on earth.” danai gurira playwright

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Danai Gurira. photo by ryan miller/capture imaging.

—Unknown


CTG NPP FALL '12 NEWSLETTER