PLAY/ground Micro-interview: Steven Dietz

Steven Dietz B-W 7447[1]Boston Court: In what way has this feeling of wanderlust changed from the post-war era in which your play is set, and how has it remained the same? Or has it changed at all? Is there something inextricable about the need for adventure and American youth?

Steven Dietz: Oh, I’d love to know this and I don’t … but let me hazard a guess:  I think the need to run our lives past the “out there” must be as strong now as it has ever been.  However, I think wanderlust now often manifests itself in a virtual way.  We are given such a rich illusion of the “out there” – such a seductive feeling that we are “going places” when we Google our way across the world – that I wonder if we are willing to risk the fundamental hardship that comes with an actual, not virtual, quest.  “The road” to me is not romantic in the least;  it is a conscious disruption of the norm, of the habit of American life.  That takes guts and a wild soul and perhaps a healthy amount of societal disregard.  And that is likely the gift that Youth gives to a culture-at-large:  the beautiful naiveté;  the beginner’s disregard for consequence.

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Steven Dietz’s play Mad Beat Hip & Gone will be presented Saturday, November 8th at 11am.

The reading is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended.

To reserve, call 626-683-6883 or email JoeM@BostonCourt.com

Steven Dietz’s thirty-plus plays and adaptations have been seen at over one hundred regional theatres in the United States, as well as Off-Broadway and in twenty countries internationally.  His work has been translated into ten languages.

Mr. Dietz is a two-time winner of the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, for Fiction (produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, Off-Broadway), and Still Life with Iris; as well as a two-time finalist for the American Theatre Critic’s Steinberg New Play Award, for Last of the Boys, and Becky’s New Car.

Mr. Dietz received the PEN USA West Award in Drama for Lonely Planet; the 2007 Edgar Award® for Drama for Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure; and the AATE Distinguished Play Award for Jackie & Me, adapted from Dan Gutman. Other widely produced plays include Yankee Tavern, Shooting Star, God’s Country, Private Eyes, Inventing van Gogh and The Nina Variations.

Recent work includes Rancho Mirage (Edgerton New Play Award, NNPN Rolling World Premiere), Bloomsday (commissioned by ACT Theatre, Seattle.), and The Shimmering.

Mr. Dietz and his family divide their time between Seattle and Austin, where he teaches playwriting and directing at the University of Texas.

PLAY/ground Micro-interview: Lauren Yee

lauren-headshot-3Boston Court: How do you use comedy to help tell a story which seems, on the surface, dark, scary and, in a lot of ways, sad? 

Lauren Yee: I love attacking a story from a sideways angle. I love surprising an audience and allowing them to run the gamut of emotions. When you’re dealing with difficult subject matter, like in in a word, humor can help to get an audience on your side. To me, humor and pain go hand in hand. What I find hilarious usually is so because it lives right on the surface of deep-seated pain.

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Lauren Yee’s play in a word will be presented on Saturday, November 8th at 5pm.

The reading is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended.

To reserve, call 626-683-6883 or email JoeM@BostonCourt.com

Lauren Yee’s plays include Ching Chong Chinaman (Pan Asian, Mu Performing Arts, SIS Productions, Impact Theatre), Crevice (Impact Theatre), The Hatmaker’s Wife (Playwrights Realm, The Hub, Moxie Theatre, AlterTheater, PlayPenn), Hookman (Company One workshop), in a word (Hangar and Williamstown workshops), King of the Yees (Goodman Theatre commission), Samsara (O’Neill Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Victory Gardens’ IGNITION Festival), and The Tiger Among Us (MAP Fund, Mu Performing Arts). Upcoming productions in the 2014/15 season at Victory Gardens, San Francisco Playhouse, the Cleveland Public Theatre, Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, and Encore Theatre.

Work developed at Lincoln Center/LCT3, Goodman Theatre, Magic Theatre, The Public, Rattlestick, and Kitchen Dog. Former Dramatists Guild fellow, MacDowell fellow, and Public Theater Emerging Writers Group member.

Fellowships: Women’s Project Lab, Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab, Playwrights Realm Page One residency, Playwrights’ Center Core Writer. Commissions: Goodman Theatre, Lincoln Center/LCT3, Mixed Blood, Encore Theatre, and TheatreworksUSA. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD. www.laurenyee.com

PLAY/ground Micro-interview: Carlos Murillo

carlosmurilloBoston Court: The protagonist of this play, a writer, has his authenticity questioned. Why is being considered inauthentic so abhorrent to a writer? 

Carlos Murillo: I’m not so sure it is abhorrent. I think it depends on how you define authenticity, who is making the determination of whether or not something is authentic, or even if you consider authenticity a necessarily positive value.

The play tells the story of two Latino playwrights in the late 80s who are sick of being pigeonholed by the expectations of their field to write a certain kind of play in a certain vernacular that people in power believe is an authentic expression of Latino experience. More interested in subverting monolithic notions of what constitutes “Latino experience” or a “Latino play,” they take on the true story of Danny Santiago, a young reclusive Chicano novelist who published FAMOUS ALL OVER TOWN, a critically acclaimed novel about growing up in the tough barrios of East LA. In virtually every review of the novel, the book was praised for it’s authentic depiction of Chicano life in Los Angeles. A literary scandal was unleashed when the New York Review of Books revealed that young Danny Santiago was in fact  Daniel Lewis James, a white, a 70 year old, ex-Communist, blacklisted screenwriter, and scion of a wealthy Kansas City Family – a figure that couldn’t exist in a world further from the one he portrayed in his novel. Reactions ranged from “who cares?” to accusations that James was a vampire, a fraudulent cultural thief who had no right to pen this story. Both of those extremes are deeply troubling to me – on the “who cares?” end of the spectrum there’s the implication that that there is no such thing as cultural theft, and James’ actions hurt no one; on the vampire fraud end of the spectrum, the implied suggestion is that 1) artists are not free to imagine worlds, characters and stories outside the narrow experience of their own culture; 2) that there exists some clear, authoritative standard for measuring “correct” and “incorrect” depictions any given culture; and 3) that . The Latino writers in the play are faced with this very dilemma when they decide to tell James’ story – can they “authentically” write in James’ voice, and convincingly depict his world, which is completely alien to them? Understanding and coming to terms with where my own beliefs and values fall on this spectrum drove me to write the play.

Interestingly, James himself described writing in the voice of Chato de Shamrock, the protagonist of FAMOUS, as the closest he ever came to finding an authentic authorial voice. (Having read much of his extant work, I would wholeheartedly agree with him). In a sense, writing the novel he found in his fictional Mexican American family a metaphor to express the crisis of his own, very different, American upbringing. After fifty years of failure as a writer, I applaud James for having stuck it out and finding, after a lifelong struggle, a kernel of truth by wearing the mask of Danny Santiago. I also curse him – his formidable connections in the literary world paved a back channel way for his novel to be published by a major house, while real Chicano writers, lacking access, barely registered a blip on the literary mainstream at the time. I also find hilarious and enervating the role critics played in the whole debacle – they were, after all, the ones that declared Santiago’s book authentic in the first place. How much experience did they have on the streets of East LA to make such an authoritative determination?

Who can really claim to own cultural expression, what is appropriate/inappropriate appropriation, what is authentic/inauthentic… Recently, while researching a musical I am presently writing, I read an article online about the Jay-Z song “Takeover” (http://www.ethanhein.com/wp/2011/jay-z-and-alan-lomax/) that sums up my ultimate feelings about the impossibility of answering these questions. Strangely, the estate of Alan Lomax, the legendary folklorist who spent his life collecting field recordings of “authentic” singers around the world from the 1930s through his death in 2002, owns a piece of that song. Why? Well, Jay-Z’s song, like so much hip hop, samples and quotes from a ton of pre-existing sources, including Bowie, The Doors and KRS-One. The KRS-One sample samples a riff from an earlier Grand Funk Railroad song, that’s actually a cover of a song by The Animals’ “Inside Looking Out,” which in turn is based on a song called “Rosie.” Where did “Rosie” come from? No one knows for sure – it’s one of those ancient African American tunes passed down from generation to generation, and whose author was lost to history. But Lomax was the first to record it when he heard a chain gang sing it at Parchman Farm, a prison-plantation in Mississippi.

Peel open that onion.

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Carlos Murillo’s play Your name Will Follow You Home, will be presented on Sunday, November 9th at 11am.

The reading is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended.

To reserve, call 626-683-6883 or email JoeM@BostonCourt.com

Carlos Murillo is a Chicago-based playwright, director and educator. His plays have been produced widely throughout the US and Europe. His most recent play, YOUR NAME WILL FOLLOW YOU HOME, originally commissioned by Steppenwolf will have its Spanish language premiere at Repertorio Espanol in NYC later this fall. Other plays include A Thick Description of Harry Smith (P73 in NYC), Diagram of a Paper Airplane (Commissioned by The Goodman, Sundance Theatre Lab), Augusta and Noble (Adventure Stage), dark play or stories for boys (Humana Festival, Theatre der Stadt Aalen, Germany, Vigszinhaz, Budapest, Hungary), Unfinished American Highwayscape #9 & 32 (Theatre @ Boston Court, LA), Mimesophobia (NYC Summer Play Festival, Theatre Seven), A Human Interest Story (or the Gory Details and All) (Theater der Stadt Aalen, Germany, Walkabout Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Son of Semele in LA), Offspring of the Cold War (Walkabout Theatre, Sundance), Schadenfreude (Circle X in LA, Sundance), Never Whistle While You’re Pissing (Group Theatre Seattle, South Coast Rep HPP) and Near Death Experiences with Leni Riefenstahl (Red Eye, Minneapolis.) His work has been commissioned by Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Berkeley Rep, South Coast Rep, The Public Theater and the University of Iowa International Writers Program. His work has been published by Dramatists Play Service, Smith & Kraus’ New Playwrights: Best New Plays of 2007, Heinmann, and Theatre Forum. The Javier Plays, a trilogy of works, is forthcoming from 53rd State Press. Awards include: Met Life Nuestros Voces Award from Repertorio Espanol, the Frederick Loewe Award from New Dramatists, two National Latino Playwriting Awards from Arizona Theatre Company, the Ofner Prize from The Goodman, and the Otis Guernsey Award from the William Inge Festival. He is currently enjoying a year long residency at The Goodman Theatre where he is working on a play about the murder of Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar in 1994. Carlos is an alumnus of New Dramatists in NY and a former Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists.  He heads the Playwriting Program at The Theatre School of DePaul University. He lives in the South Side of Chicago with his wife Lisa Portes and their two children Eva and Carlitos.

On Vulgarity

by Dolores Quintana

What offends you? Is it a word,  a concept, or a work of art?

Human society has rules and woe to the person who breaks those rules. Shame, ridicule and side eyes will be flung at the interloper who dares flout the tenets of polite behavior. But when you are talking about art, why is this necessary? Art exists to pour light on taboo subjects and issues that society refuses to deal with adequately as well as entertain and thrill audiences. It is a form of communication that can put our own touchy subjects in fantasy constructs to make it easier for us to deal with them and eventually fix them.

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This year, The Theatre @ Boston Court presented a play with a title that had a curse word in it, Stupid Fucking Bird. Wigs were flipped. One of the myriad reasons why theater has a weaking grip on the cultural landscape is because much of what is produced theatrically is unchallenging, staid, and recycled material that aims strictly for the lowest common denominator. What is confounding about the situation is the reaction to a very small vulgarity that created a big brouhaha. What upset people most? The themes of suicide or the shallowness and self delusion of people who consider themselves to be artists? No, the word: fuck. My theory about profanity is that if you do it, as an adult, you should be able to say it or type it. But even in 2014, I see full grown adults using substitute words in daily conversation or while using social media on The Internet. If you are angry, what’s wrong with expressing yourself in what you find to be an appropriate manner? If you cuss like a sailor in real life, why type “Frack” when you really mean Fuck? Do you imagine small children are reading your Twitter feed?  A well known comedian said it pretty succinctly. When you say the substitute word, everyone knows what you are saying. The brains of people receiving the sensory input instantly translate it. You just said the word to everyone anyway. You simply lack the courage to say what you really mean.


They are just words. They have only the meaning and heft that we give them.

Additionally, one of the tools of the artist is to deploy shock and outrage to open the way for new thinking in its audience. Shock value. There are whole schools of thought within theater devoted to it. Hello Antonin Artaud. When you see something that disgusts, angers, or confuses you, your defenses go down, even if it is just a tiny rolling down of the window. It is increasingly used badly and irresponsibly but the guru of shock John Waters has used it for his entire career and has made great inroads in mainstream American culture for the acceptance of weirdos. It’s a big club that thwacks you over the head and makes you pay attention to things you normally would ignore. It works. Example: one of the things that society recommends to its people is travel. Travel and broaden your horizons, they say. It means when you live in one city or town and hang around with a small set of people that you are comfortable with and never go out in the world and meet people and cultures different from you, you will remain boring and conservative for the rest of your life. Your thought processes become set and you stop learning about new things and figuring out that things you don’t understand shouldn’t necessarily frighten you. As H.P. Lovecraft said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. Lovecraft would know as his own upbringing was responsible for his own fears.  Refusing to face things that make you uncomfortable makes the fear that much stronger and make you that much more of a small minded human with a low ceiling on their life and outlook. In other words, the type of person who usually only attends revivals of well known plays and jukebox musicals on tour from Broadway.

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As with most everything else, intent is what matters. When a bigot or racist uses words to shame and hurt people, that is a deplorable and hideous use of language. That is wrong.  But when a playwright or actor uses the word to expose violent and cruel behavior of those types of cowards, it’s done to expose the hypocrisy and hatred in their hearts. Do not make the mistake of confusing the two in a knee jerk reaction. You were born with the ability to discern the difference. The more you do it, the better you will become at recognizing one from the other.

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Routine and rote are deadly for the progression of human society and human thought.  You should also know that Stupid Fucking Bird was also one the the best selling shows to date at The Theatre @ Boston Court. Bravery in art is sometimes rewarded.  Polite behavior and societal rules exist for good reasons, but we can never let the rules crush the human spirit and the wonder of art, theater and the human experience. Check out things that make you uncomfortable and plays outside your experience. Growth is uncomfortable and sometimes painful. But that’s how you know you are progressing. Putting blinders on might make you feel safe, but it is at the expense of becoming the person you could be.

Samuel Beckett’s HAPPY DAYS: Review Rundown

wpid-latimes.gifChalk this sighting up to the uncanny familiarity of Brooke Adams’ Winnie in Andrei Belgrader’s superb revival of “Happy Days,” now at the Theatre @ Boston Court. The unforced neighborliness of her performance allowed me to experience the play with new eyes — and spot the Winnies all around us.

This production — which features Broadway veteran and multiple Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub, Adams’ real-life husband, in the role of Willie, Winnie’s there-but-not-there life partner — preserves the universality of Beckett’s vivid stage metaphor while making it seem right at home in Southern California.

Click here to read the entire review.

la-weekly-logoThis production’s perfect blend of scorching pointlessness and humor approaches the slapstick of a Buster Keaton movie and also the pathos of tragedy, yet only flirts with — rather than plunges into — either extreme.

To call Andrei Belgrader’s direction “restrained” would be off-point: Shalhoub’s Willie blows his nose for a good minute and a half in an extended crescendo, and pops his head up and down from behind his ravine like a Jack-in-the-box. Yet circumventing such slapstick rhythms, Adams’ Winnie luxuriates in the time it takes to brush her teeth and probe her gums, and relishes the sight of a crawling insect — the only sign of non-human life.

Click here to read the entire review.

wpid-cropped-header22.jpgDirector Andrei Belgrader balances the grim, unforgiving quality of set and situation with just enough humor to keep the darkness from descending too soon. He also establishes a pace which makes room for the performers’ art and interpretation without stretching the necessarily repetitive script to a point where the audience disengages. This is a major element in this production’s success.

Takeshi Kata’s diorama-like set falls well into Beckett’s vision for the scene at hand. Melanie Watnick’s costumes evoke the barren, the bleached, the dirty and the worn. The thing looks right, which becomes particularly important in a play where setting is almost a character.

In short, this play – like many others, new and old, produced at Boston Court – asks an audience to absorb, discuss and ponder. “Happy Days” may be listed as a classic, but not one commonly done. It proves most certainly to be a tour de force for Adams, and worth watching if only for that. For all these reasons, go see this “Happy Days”. Then feel free to ask yourself and everyone around you what the answer is to that ending question. You may learn much in the process.

Click here to read the entire review.

wpid-screenshot_2014-07-02-23-47-47-1.pngAny actress who tackles the role of Winnie faces the nearly impossible task of keeping us interested and involved for two longish acts while she’s almost totally immobilized. But Adams rises to the occasion handsomely, keeping the opening night audience in thrall, by exploiting the comedy of Winnie’s ever-shifting moods, her unflagging spirits, and her ability to survive in increasingly desperate circumstances.

Shalhoub, as Willie, makes the absolute most of a seemingly constricted role: He says little, and is mostly invisible in Act 1. We see the back of his bald head, fringed with wispy white hair, we see his eyes peering over the edge of his pit, and we even get a glimpse of his bare backside, but we never see his face till almost the end of the play, when he emerges from his burrow dressed unaccountably as a down-at-heel banker, in cutaway coat, striped trousers, spats, and a battered top hat. He clowns shamelessly and zestfully, takes pratfalls, and seems to be enjoying himself immensely.

Click here to read the entire review.

hollywoodreporterlogoThis impeccable rendition of Beckett’s bleak evergreen harmonizes the Irish playwright’s craggy temperament with a peculiarly Southern California optimism.

Brooke Adams achieves her own originality of conception with a vocabulary of simple, deliberate gestures, meticulously delineated. Her sunny disposition is conceived in mannerisms recognizable to anyone in the audience, effectively suggesting that Winnies are all about us — and within us, too.

Adams performs efficiently and economically yet is utterly in touch with the demands of the play’s bleak vision. This is an all-American Winnie, and Takeshi Kata‘s set design, however inflexibly dictated by the text, allusively suggests a sense less of an Anglo-Irish seashore than a desert not so far off a freeway.

Click here to read the entire review.

glendale news pressFor a strikingly fresh, definitive revival of Samuel Beckett’s 1961 existential tragicomedy, “Happy Days,” look no further than Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena.

Directed by Andrei Belgrader, this superlative production features Brooke Adams as the literally earthbound, endearingly and determinedly optimistic Winnie, well-matched by her fellow stage and screen veteran (and husband) Tony Shalhoub in the nearly wordless and nearly unseen role of Winnie’s lowbrow mate, Willie.

In the post-apocalyptic bleakness of heat-blasted terrain (effectively rendered by scenic designer Takeshi Kata and light designer Tom Ontiveros as consciously theatrical yet all-too-believable in this time of extreme drought), Winnie, confined in the dirt, cultivates acceptance.

“Ah, well, seen enough,” she says, when wondering if she’s losing her sight.

Click here to read the entire review.

artsinlaBritish director Peter Hall once expressed that Beckett’s much-dissected work was “as much about mime and physical precision as about words”—an observation clearly buttressing the perception that the gossamer directorial vision of Andrei Belgrader, guiding an actor as fearless as Brooke Adams, has inspired something truly remarkable. With her body stuck in a massive mound of dirt from just below her chest throughout Act One, only Adams’s arms, her incredibly mobile face, a scattering of everyday items pulled from a large leather satchel, and a few scattered groans and mumbles emanating from the mostly out-of-sight Tony Shaloub as her husband Willie are available to help her keep our attention.

Click here to read the entire review.

stageandcinemaTheater of the Absurd can easily go awry if too much license is taken by a creative team. Beckett saw his intentions as inviolate, potentially devastated by irreverence or meddling, and anyone who’s seen a student production of Pirandello knows he was right to worry. Belgrader does not meddle, but neither does he prostrate himself. Adams, and her husband Tony Shalhoub as Willie, seem to be inventing this scenario in real time.

In bits scattered through the entire show, but especially in a phenomenal display of physical dexterity in the second act, Shalhoub provides the hideous counterpoint to the existentialist question: What if living means losing what makes life worth the effort? Well, as Winnie shows, that needn’t happen; no matter how much is taken from us, there’s always something for which to be grateful. The strain of sentimentalism that runs through Beckett’s work has never sounded so hip to me as now, because this Winnie made me want to live as vibrantly as she does.

Click here to read the entire review.

cultural weeklyJessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn performed this play together, as did French actors Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault. In each case the actors were married to each other. The production @ Boston Court also is performed by a married couple: Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub. This may seem like a trifling observation, but the intimacy of the offstage relationship has theatrical relevance. It helps to enhance the onstage chemistry.

The primary focus in this quasi-monologue is on Winnie, who talks more or less nonstop, while Willie says next to nothing in his own very eloquent way. Winnie speaks, she tells us, because the preternatural silence is too deafening. She focuses first on the big things, announcing at the start of her day, “No change. No pain. Wonderful thing that. Nothing like it,” followed at frequent intervals for a variety of reasons by a gratitude she’s intent on maintaining. “Great mercies, great mercies” is heard quite often.

Click here to read the entire review.

lifeinla logoAs Willie, Tony Shalhoub has a fantastic physicality. At times, he moves with such oafish fatigue and painstaking resolve that it’s hard not to wince when watching him. He is not seen for most of the play, but when he is he knows how to embody the desperation and the sloth of Willie—a less than charming combination—and his comic timing is exquisite.

But this really is Brooke Adam’s play. As Winnie, she is outstanding. What a challenge for an actress to be mostly buried, with her face straight out to the audience, unable to fully move, and still completely captivate an audience. She holds us in the palm of her hand and we never deter from her. She imbues Winnie with a sweetness that is infectious, and a sorrow that is heartbreaking. We empathize so much with her because, in a sense, she is us. And Ms. Adam’s is able to convey that humanity, that everyday quality with such precision and tender sadness that you’ll want to jump out of your seat and free her from her gravelly prison.

Click here to read the entire review.

onstagelosangelesAdams is a beauty. She impressed me as a Marilyn Monroe at first. Blonde and buxom. Frilly white dress. All she has to work with are the words and her arms. Her facial expressions, especially in Act Two are priceless. The black bag and her concern for Willie engage. In Act One all we really see of Willie is the back of his balding head and stringy hair, as he attempts to relieve the heat of the day and protect himself from the sun. Shalhoub’s elegant gestures: spare and complete, allow us to understand that great acting can still be accomplished silently by an actor who ‘gets it!’ A broken straw boater is carefully placed and then given a rakish tilt. It defines unfortunate Willie.

Click here to read the entire review.

examinerUnexpectedly poignant, Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” directed by Andrei Belgrader stars Brooke Adams in a tour de force performance and real-life husband, Tony Shaloub. This production of Beckett’s infrequently performed allegorical play explores the resilience of the human spirit on a desolate barren landscape as two souls struggle to connect.

Click here to read the entire review.

ustheaterBoth actress Brooke Adams and her husband Tony Shalhoub performed admirably as the doomed couple. For a short while in act one, I must admit, that I felt (like Los Angeles Times reviewer Charles McNulty) that the purposely slow pace of Adams’ actions and observations created a kind of tedium that, while perhaps conveying the emptiness of Winnie’s world, made the play itself a bit tedious. But quite soon thereafter I began to see her performance as a subtle indication of Winnie’s endless thought-processes, as revealing the mind behind her never-ending but constantly shifting fantasies of possibility that she daily invented in her delirium.

Click here to read the entire review.

stagehappeningslogoSo what to make of Beckett’s Winnie (as sunnily depicted by Brooke Adams)? Buried waist-deep in a huge mound that takes up the entire stage at Boston Court, Winnie’s smile belies the desperation of her circumstance.  It is astonishing that her difficulty is never remarked upon.  She seems to be oblivious to her surroundings as she creates a series of tasks, murmuring about the “many mercies” that make up her life. The presence of Willie (Tony Shalhoub), seems to provide her with the grounding that makes living bearable, although his mono-syllabic responses punctuating her running monologue seem hardly to penetrate.

Although a play where nobody moves and nobody complains might be wearing, this production hums along and never lets down. As impeccably directed by Andrei Belgrader, Adams embarks on her trajectory with a sunny disposition that never fails her all the while sinking deeper into the mound.

Click here to read the entire review.

The Theatre @ Boston Court’s Artistic Directors Announce the 2015 Season

T@BC2015SeasonOur 2015 season is breaking new ground for Boston Court. In addition to the four shows you see yearly on the Main Stage at Boston Court, this year The Theatre @ Boston Court is producing in additional venues on both coasts!

First, if you find yourself on the east coast this coming February/March/April, please join us as we continue our co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre of Sheila Callaghan’s Everything You Touch, first seen here at Boston Court this past spring. Jessica Kubzansky will direct at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City.

Meanwhile, here at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center, we are enormously proud of the challenging, stimulating plays that comprise our twelfth season.

Opening in the Winter is the World Premiere of The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll by Lily Blau, directed by Abigail Deser. Lewis Carroll kept a journal of his life, including his befriending of Alice Liddell, the young muse who inspired Alice in Wonderland. Upon Carroll’s death it was discovered that several pages of his journal had been torn out. This play takes us down the rabbit hole to explore what might have been on these missing pages.

This Spring brings the West Coast Premiere of the riotous and riveting My Barking Dog by Eric Coble, directed by Michael Michetti. Two reclusive apartment dwellers’ unfulfilled lives take a turn for the bizarre when a starving coyote begins to frequent their fire escape. This brush with wildlife incites them to embrace their animal instincts as they bond with their untamed visitor.

Next Summer is the West Coast Premiere of Shiv by Aditi Brennan Kapil, directed by Emilie Beck. This poetic, highly theatrical post-Colonial fantasy explores the relationship between a girl becoming a young American woman and the South Asian poet father who inspires and eventually disappoints her. With little but a mattress as a vessel for her imagination, Shiv struggles for liberation from a difficult past.

And Fall brings the West Coast Premiere of our co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre of Seven Spots on the Sun by Martin Zimmerman, directed by Michael John Garcés. The people of a Latin American village are reeling from the impact of a devastating civil war when a mysterious plague begins to ravage their children. An embittered doctor discovers that he could be their savior, but he must wrestle with his own soul to discover whether he wants to offer compassion or retribution.

Finally, in September we invite you to join us at the stunning Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades for Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles by Luis Alfaro, directed by Jessica Kubzansky. For those who saw Oedipus el Rey in our 2010 season, Luis continues his brilliant reexamination of the Greek classics through a modern lens: Medea, a Mexican seamstress with extraordinary skill, is running from a past filled with betrayals. With husband Jason and their son in tow, Medea’s old and new worlds collide in the City of Angels.

We couldn’t be more excited about this season and hope you’ll join us for these stimulating plays that open the mind, the heart, and push on the cultural conversation.

As ever, we hope you enjoy the ride!

Jessica Kubzansky and Michael Michetti

Artistic Directors, The Theatre @ Boston Court

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What is a ‘Boston Court’ play?

A Conversation with our Literary Managers

EMILIE: We are often asked what a “Boston Court” play is, and that’s both a difficult and easy question to answer. In some ways, it’s like any art: we know it when we see it. This is particularly true because we look for scripts that break known boundaries; if we could tell each other what those looked like, they would already be known entities. But we wanted to share some thoughts that could be helpful in identifying our brand.

We tend to respond to deep human themes; stories that are more investigative than they are clever; and perhaps most importantly, plays that make us talk more about ideas than about plot. In general, we like plays that ask more than answer. And, in all of that, a story told with a strong voice, a unique vision, that breaks boundaries not for the sake of breaking them, but because that’s the only way to tell that particular story.

And by the way, I offer none of this as an absolute prescription, simply as an articulation of what we’re often attracted to.

AARON: Our mission makes clear that we appreciate and celebrate work that is “inherently theatrical,” but what does that phrase mean? In the simplest sense, it means that the work could not exist in another form. For any variety of reasons, be they about style or thematic explorations, this piece of writing would not be at home on a television screen or in a movie theater. In addition, for us, “inherently theatrical” also means that the work does not always strictly adhere to the perceived rules of our world. Instead, it may create its own rules and ask us to participate in the endeavor.

Here’s what, stylistically, is up our alley. While we enjoy and program work in a wide variety of styles, I think it is safe to say that a Boston Court Play only truly lives when it is fully staged and realized. Any piece that can accomplish all, or even most, of its narrative goals in a reading, for example, would not be for us. Many of the plays we produce have fractured or non-linear narratives, poetic dialogue, and physical explorations that are non-naturalistic.

Many are also what some would call “expressionistic”, meaning that everything from monologues and movement to the structure of the pieces themselves are vehicles to allow the inner working of the characters, and the story, to be externalized.

As mentioned earlier in this conversation, these are not hard and fast rules–we have certainly programmed plays that do not meet every single one of these points of interest–but they are techniques and choices with which we often work.

EMILIE: Aaron, you speak about creating rules, and I want to riff on that a little. You have to know the rules to break them, and then you have to know what rules you’ve broken in order to create your own. The plays that pique our interest often have at least some of this in the way they’ve been mapped. An obvious way to make an example of this would be to look at Nancy Keystone’s Alcestis, which we produced last year. We can point to the original play, and then look at the ways Nancy busted it open. The story is the same, but it hasn’t been plotted in the same way. Nancy used the play as a way to explore grief, but then she circled back and conveyed the story of Alcestis using her own language. There was deep thought in the process in which it was created, in form as much as content. And I think this is an important piece to us: that structure is equal to content; one defines the other.

AARON: Absolutely. The idea that form and function are intertwined is integral to the work we produce. The stylistic choices cannot be separated from the content of the material. Nor can the style be separated from the metaphoric resonances with which the pieces are engaged. Additionally, the plays that we choose ask for a certain kind of focused attention in which there is no opportunity to detach from the experience. Instead, they require a high degree of investment, both intellectual and emotional, on the audience’s part.

Another example is Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, a modern-day adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull. This piece utilizes the bones of The Seagull‘s narrative to create an exploration of art’s value, inherent and otherwise, to society. This is accomplished partially through meta-theatrical moments, in which characters/actors blatantly call out the artifice of this theatrical experience, while also honoring it fully and being inside the experience. It may sound like a trick or a device, but it is not. These moments get to the heart of what this new piece, as well as Chekhov’s original, is about.

EMILIE: Yes, SFB accomplishes in a different way what Michael Elyanow’s The Children–based on Medea–did a few seasons ago. Each remains loyal in certain ways to the original, and each also succeeds in becoming a new play of its own making. These versions are heightened if you’re familiar with the original plays, but that isn’t necessary for the emotional or intellectual experience of viewing the updated incarnation.

And we’ve now named several plays based on earlier plays, so let me open this up to say that what’s exciting is when we read a script – new or adapted – that is deeply exploring something. The kind of exploration that we’re drawn to can sometimes feel big enough to almost seem convoluted or unwieldy, but if we have a sense that the playwright is trying to drive toward a specific, powerful idea, we are excited by that diamond in the rough. We love plays that are messy but deep, as opposed to plays we read that are slick and shiny but thin. It’s difficult, as we’ve found, to flesh something out, and much more interesting to work with a playwright on paring something back.

And this goes back to your earlier point, Aaron, about the kind of work we do being different to what can be found on a screen. We aren’t doing kitchen-sink dramas, unless there’s maybe an actor playing a kitchen sink. (That sounds like a joke, but we did have actors playing objects in our most recent show: Sheila Callaghan’s Everything You Touch. They played ashtrays and telephones and coat racks, among many other things, as a way of showing society’s objectification of women.)

AARON: We should also mention that we have some practical considerations as well. We do love world premieres, but we’re also interested in producing a play that would give the playwright a second production of the work. Playwrights find getting second and third productions as difficult or more difficult than getting an initial production. It’s really only after a play has found three or more productions that it tends to find its own momentum. But for us, it’s always about our excitement about what the play is up to, rather than the status of it as a world premiere.

Conversely, I will say that sometimes, we’ll find a script that has had five or six productions elsewhere in the country, and though none of them are in our backyard, we know that someone else in Los Angeles will likely produce that play. We would rather give our programming space to plays that other theaters tend to think of as too challenging, risky, or even too flawed. Dan Dietz’s American Misfit and David Wiener’s Cassiopeia were both scripts that had gathered dust in their respective playwrights’ drawers for a decade before we programmed them.

EMILIE: Yes, and we also understand that a play sometimes can’t find its voice without all the elements of a full production. Sometimes that means we take a risk by agreeing to give a production to a script that hasn’t yet fully come together on the page. But part of that risk is because we want to offer the playwright the opportunity to discover the alchemy of all the elements that are impossible to pursue on the single dimension of the page. We take a calculated risk that the play’s discovery of itself fully realized will be far richer than purely the text on the page.

And so, it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that we’re very interested in working with playwrights who want to dig into their scripts. Not everyone is interested in this, and we respect that. But we’re always going to look for people who want to engage with us on the work.

AARON: Emilie, I think that’s a great place to leave us, with the idea that we, at Boston Court, are hoping to interact with writers who will find it exciting to be in an environment where the desire is to help the play become its best self–not to try to mold it into something else, but to have a collaboration that deepens the scope of the work and expands the possibilities of the ways in which their own voice and their own creation can most effectively communicate.

THE VISION STATEMENT: The Theatre @ Boston Court produces passionate, artist-driven theatre that challenges both artist and audience. The Theatre @ Boston Court urges its artists to fearlessly and passionately pursue their unique voice and vision. Play selection encompasses a wide variety of genres (classics, musicals and world premieres, with a special emphasis on nurturing playwrights and new play development) which are inherently theatrical, textually rich, and visually arresting.