Steppenwolf Theatre’s “POTUS” Or, Behind Every Successful Regional Theater is an Artistic Team Trying to Keep It Alive

“I hope audiences are reminded how awesome it feels to laugh with strangers.” – Director Audrey Francis on POTUS

POTUS is for lovers of Scandal or West Wing. Except the president is unsexy, unintuitive, and puppeteered by seven women on the verge of a panic attack. As the days get darker and colder than our politics, if you’re looking to laugh out loud, run to see Steppenwolf’s POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive by Selina Fillinger.

In POTUS, time moves how I’d imagine it does in the White House; fires burning everywhere, everyone busting their asses to put the fires out as quickly and quietly as possible. But after a while of watching the White House staff running around, the audience is able to see the treadmill under their feet; they are going fast, but they’re also going nowhere. Regina Garcia’s set design renders this concept literal. The “women in charge of the man in charge” are tasked with traversing over a rotating, circular floor in the middle of the stage. They’re running in place– in heels– trying their best to do their job well. In this world, a job well-executed means being invisible as one of the marionettists running the country via the president. Continue reading “Steppenwolf Theatre’s “POTUS” Or, Behind Every Successful Regional Theater is an Artistic Team Trying to Keep It Alive”

Decomposition Instead of Collapse: A Response from Jacob Padrón

Editor’s note: This essay series is by and for the theater community, and hopes to offer regenerative, communal thinking in the face of industry changes. We are providing a brave space for artists and administrators to focus on creating present and future solutions out of, or beyond our past [perceived] failures. This series builds upon Annalisa Dias’ essay Decomposition Instead of Collapse: Dear Theater Leaders Be Like Soil, originally curated and published by Rescripted and Nothing for the Group. To mirror the mycelial intent of this series, we decided to expand our collaboration and partner with 3Views, amplifying this content on multiple platforms. All editing for this series is done on a voluntary basis, and we offer a small honorarium to our writers for their perspectives. We encourage you to support/donate to our platforms so we can continue this important work. Thank you to Stephanie Ybarra, Lauren Halvorsen, and Annalisa Dias for being originating thought partners in this work. [This series is published in a commons with 3Views on Theater, Rescripted and Nothing for the Group, and you can read this content on any of our platforms for maximum amplification.] 

A Response to Annalisa Dias from Jacob Padrón, Artistic Director of Long Wharf Theatre:

I’m writing to share my deepest gratitude for your recent article in response to the  challenges we’re facing as a theatre community. I’m grateful for your invitation to adopt new “lenses” that allow us to think about this time in our history as one of new  beginnings, new discoveries, and new sunrises. To let go of fear, is to make room for  imagination. I wish more of us could illuminate this collective journey – the transformation of the culture of our organizations – with more questions than answers. When we lead with courage, we create a theatre of possibility, and we make better art. We must keep centering the thing we do best: building worlds, bringing people together, and telling essential stories.  Continue reading “Decomposition Instead of Collapse: A Response from Jacob Padrón”

In Teatro Vista’s ‘¡Bernarda!’ Blood is Thicker Than Truth

Snap. Crackle. Pop. If you listen close enough, you can almost hear the bones crunching in the walls of the house of Bernarda Alba; echoes of the sacrifices and secrets on which the house’s foundation was built. The women who reside there are barely holding themselves together under the immense pressure that threatens to break them. In the wake of the death of Bernarda’s second husband, the doors are closed, the windows shut, and mourners left to boil outside the home in the oppressive heat. In spite of the weather, Bernarda insists that all her daughters wear “rigorous black” to honor their father’s memory. 

Traditionally, adaptations of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, originally published in 1936 two months before Lorca’s assassination, take their design inspiration from the macabre attire of the bereaved. By contrast, this adaptation titled ¡Bernarda!, authored by Emilio Williams and directed by Wendy Mateo, boldly uses light, color, and comedy to showcase the darker parts of humanity.  Continue reading “In Teatro Vista’s ‘¡Bernarda!’ Blood is Thicker Than Truth”

Steppenwolf Theatre’s ‘Sanctuary City’ Asks – Who Among Us Has a Right to Safety?

What is a sanctuary? Is it geographically bound? Or made in connection between people? Is it familiar or foreign? Does it require travel or follow you where you go? And does everyone get to have sanctuary? Is it a right? A rite of passage?

Sanctuary City explores the bounds of what sanctuary means to two New Jersey teens in the early aughts. From 2001-2007, we follow G and B through major life events– college applications, prom, familial separations, and their escape from abuse. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Martyna Majok asserts her talent through snappy dialogue and a collision of intersecting identities. She paints both a painfully specific and yet broad picture of American immigration. Continue reading “Steppenwolf Theatre’s ‘Sanctuary City’ Asks – Who Among Us Has a Right to Safety?”

Jump In, Feet First:  Cycles and Growth in Writers Theatre’s Eurydice

Eurydice and Orpheus begin with bare feet. They are at the beach, about to jump in. They are lovers and you can feel it– they kiss and tussle and banter. Then, Orpheus gets down on one knee and they jump in, feet first. 

Eurydice is a play about life cycles. The lovers are separated by Eurydice’s sudden death on their wedding day. A stark beginning with a starker end. She reunites with her father in the underworld with no memory of who he is. She must relearn everything she once knew. A rebirth. And the cycle begins again.

When Eurydice enters the underworld, by way of an elevator that’s raining from the inside, she enters in shoes. It’s striking because even at her wedding she was barefoot. Her feet are covered and her memories are gone. And I wonder, is there something about touching your bare feet to the world (or… underworld) that connects you to yourself?  Continue reading “Jump In, Feet First:  Cycles and Growth in Writers Theatre’s Eurydice”

‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’ at The Gift Theatre is Larger than Life

Billie Holiday. Judy Garland. Amy Winehouse. The particulars change, but the contours are all too familiar: a talent is discovered, milked for all she’s worth, and then discarded. It’s a story that plays out again in Jim Cartwright’s 1992 The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, revived at the Gift Theatre. Thirty years later, a culture of disposability persists in the entertainment industry, as evidenced by this year’s historic WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, and that disposability undeniably compounds with gender, race, class, and other minoritized identities. Continue reading “‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’ at The Gift Theatre is Larger than Life”

The Death of Oedipus and The Departure of Charlie Newell: ‘The Gospel at Colonus’ Heralds The Court Theatre Into a New Age

Watching The Gospel at Colonus at The Getty Villa is like watching a live resurrection. A theatre piece becomes a fossil on closing day, an antiquity to be dusted off and given new life. Mark J.P. Hood and Charlie Newell have rolled their stone all the way from Chicago, IL to the mountains of Los Angeles, California. It’s a muscular act that requires the utmost attention, and like a resurrection, no one knows quite what to expect. The performers glide gently down the stone steps of the aisles, greeting us individually as the congregation gathers to testify to Theseus’ (Mark Spates Smith) tale of Oedipus. As an audience we feel a sense of comfort and home as we’re encouraged to talk back to the production. We’re a part of the story.  Continue reading “The Death of Oedipus and The Departure of Charlie Newell: ‘The Gospel at Colonus’ Heralds The Court Theatre Into a New Age”

Lifeline Theatre’s Revival of ‘Cat’s Cradle’ Invokes the Atomic Age in Technicolor

In the fallout of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Lifeline Theatre brings the end of the world to the stage with an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s timeless cautionary tale, Cat’s Cradle. This 1963 satire follows a freelance writer and his research into the enigmatic life of Dr. Felix Hoenikker. This fictional Nobel Prize-winning scientist, loosely inspired by J. Robert Oppenheimer and Irving Langmuir, is renowned for his pivotal role in the creation of the atomic bomb. As the narrative unfolds, the writer becomes increasingly ensnared in the surreal and apocalyptic consequences stemming from Hoenikker’s final creation. Lifeline Theatre ensemble member John Hildreth’s adaptation of Vonnegut’s classic novel is a relevant retelling amplified by director Heather Currie’s explosive production.

Continue reading “Lifeline Theatre’s Revival of ‘Cat’s Cradle’ Invokes the Atomic Age in Technicolor”

The Setting Sun Lingers on ‘Today Tonight Soon’ at Theatre L’Acadie

Today Tonight Soon is a world-premiere post-apocalyptic play set on an island inhabited by the last women alive on earth, as they wait for the last living man on earth, staged as the sun sets on the devastatingly beautiful and unfortunately (for the sake of the storytelling) populated Loyola Beach. This production is site-specific, so there is no set or sound design, but the costumes, designed by Benjamin Mills, feature a delightfully modern cacophony of Steampunk and Regency dress. Continue reading “The Setting Sun Lingers on ‘Today Tonight Soon’ at Theatre L’Acadie”