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It’s Time for Theater to Embrace Film’s Accessibility

By Dolores Quintana

One of the core tenets of theater is that it is available for only a limited time and that if you don’t go to a theater and see a play, you will miss the experience forever. Like a puff of ephemeral fairy dust, those not in the know and able to go, miss their chance to see magic. Many theater people consider this to be something that makes the art more special, more rarefied. To all of these people, the National Theatre of England has one word: poppycock.

national theater banner

It is a bit ironic that one of the older and more hallowed theater organizations is one of the first to embrace the idea of filming a play and broadcasting it around the world in movie theaters or digitally but to this writer, it would seem to be both a natural extension of the art and a great idea. In a time where many theater companies complain of being ignored by the general public, this is possibly one of the greatest ideas to spread the magic of theater arts to everyone. Continue reading

@BoCoIntern: My Thoughts about Stupid F–king Bird


Follow me on Twitter! @BoCoIntern

By Katie Freeman

I am the summer 2014 intern for The Theatre @ Boston Court. Here’s a link to tell you more about me. One of my first assignments as an intern was to read the script for Boston Court’s upcoming play, Stupid Fucking Bird, by Aaron Posner. Here are my thoughts as a member of the artistic community, as well as a member of Generation Y.

This play is an adaptation of The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov (or as the playwright labels it: “a sort-of adaptation”). Unless you are a theater person, you probably don’t know much about the playwright Anton Chekhov. However, for the purpose of reading my response, all you really need to know was that he was a Russian playwright in the 1800′s.

While reading the play, I found myself guffawing over the dialogue and how wonderfully terrible the characters are with handling hardships. They each lament over why they are unhappy and what they want, but can’t have. I especially appreciated the perspective in this line:

“Will anyone care in 100 years? About the muffins. Or the color of your kitchen cabinets. Or the relative success of your… backyard meta-theatrical skit.”          - Trig, Stupid Fucking Bird

The frequent laughter this play provokes gives it a clear, separate identity from The Seagull. Posner takes Chekhov’s oh-so-carefully placed subtleties, and forces them out in the open in Stupid Fucking Bird.

What I thought the playwright captured very well was the constant discussion of existentialism in almost all of Chekhov’s plays. Characters asking, “Why am I here?” “What’s the point of living?” “What’s it all worth?” can get really annoying, really fast. What’s nice about Stupid Fucking Bird is that it makes fun of this relentless questioning, and it never answers these questions. Essentially, you as the audience member decides what the meaning of your life is. There is no all-encompassing meaning provided for you.

The main character in the play, Conrad, is the most wounded of the cast. Okay, to be fair, all of the characters are wounded for one reason or another, which is why they are easy to relate to. Personally, I like that the constant complaining is over-dramatized in this adaptation. For example, characters at one point stand facing the audience (Chorus Line fashion) and talk about their problems through repetition of the same phrases, to the effect of: “THIS REALLY SUCKS. MY LIFE IS HARD. WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN TO ME?”

The characters in the play deal with self-inflicted unhappiness while actively pursuing a sort of martyrdom by continually discussing their problems. They all expect things to happen for them, rather than making things happen for themselves. They go through the motions of living their lives, and when things don’t go their way, instead of finding an alternative solution, they sit there and pout and complain to anyone who will listen. This is an issue that is still relevant…I can’t tell you how many times I am told my generation has problems with standing on their own two feet. Or, is lazy when it comes to creating opportunities for themselves.

If Chekhov could conceive of people who deal with these character flaws back in the 1800′s…maybe it’s not just my generation that is plagued with being lazy and helpless.

Maybe the human experience is just too much for some people. I think this trait is exhibited in people of all age groups, since maturity has little to do with age.

Another aspect of Stupid Fucking Bird which makes it unique is the frequent shattering of the 4th wall. This makes it difficult to get into the story and suspend your disbelief, which is what American audiences are so used to. In fact, the audience is asked many times for advice regarding the events that unfold in the characters’ lives, in real-time. The jolting effect of being continuously brought out of the mentality our brains go into while watching a show is intentionally supposed to be uncomfortable.

If you end up watching the show feeling on edge, you’re probably doing it right.

The number one thing I took from this show is that there is not always a clear answer. For people who like to problem-solve (myself included), this is a tough pill to swallow.

Another audience tip: Don’t get on your phone immediately after the show goes to intermission and/or ends. One of the aspects of theater is that you get to observe a live experience with complete strangers, after which you have the opportunity to discuss and share ideas. I challenge you to take a few moments to either silently process it in your head, or to talk about it.

I realize I may have presented this play as bleak, but it is hilarious and handles the angst-y plot points with just the right amount of dark humor for comic relief. Let it affect you, and see where you end up. Your life may not be shaken to its core, but this is undoubtedly a great piece of theater. If anything, you will get a killer ab workout from laughing.

Announcing the cast of Stupid F–king Bird, by Aaron Posner

Will Bradley - CON

Will Bradley – CON

Arye Gross - SORN

Arye Gross – SORN

Charlotte Gulezian - MASH

Charlotte Gulezian – MASH

Zarah Mahler - NINA

Zarah Mahler – NINA

Matthew Floyd Miller - TRIG

Matthew Floyd Miller – TRIG

Amy Pietz - EMMA

Amy Pietz – EMMA

Adam Silver - DEV

Adam Silver – DEV


Letter from the Artistic Directors

This letter appears in the program for Everything You Touch.

Dear Theatregoer,

There’s a moment in the process of making nearly every play that we think, “People have no idea what it takes to do this.” It takes such a village to make theatre. And the journey of a play from conception to fruition is always an incredible odyssey.

Occasionally a playwright writes a play in four days, a theatre decides to produce it, and the process is really that simple. But more often the road to a full production is much longer, with many stops along the way.

In the case of Sheila Callaghan’s Everything You Touch, Sheila first introduced the play to Jessica in 2010 when it was just a monologue and Sheila thought it might be a musical. It was just called The Fashion Play. They did a reading in a bar, and then Sheila went away to continue developing the idea in New York with True Love Productions, who initially commissioned the play, and with New Dramatists in their Playtime series. She honed the story and clarified for herself the way in which she wanted to tell it. She then shared another draft with us.

In 2011 The Theatre @ Boston Court staged a reading of an early draft of Everything You Touch for our PLAY/ground New Play Festival, where we often program plays that we’re interested in exploring for full production. That reading was enormously successful, and we subsequently had exciting “Brain Trust” meetings with Sheila about the play, in which our literary managers, along with the two of us, talked about what we received, Sheila’s vision for the play, and how to get the play to continue to become its best self.

Sheila had also been having other readings, among them several at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York, with Artistic Director David Van Asselt who has been another passionate advocate for Sheila, the play, and its further growth and development.

While Sheila was doing that, we were trying to figure out a way of programming a production. But because there are elements that this play must have to tell its story—chiefly, a very significant fashion component and a model chorus—the financial requirements were beyond our means for our 2013 Season. If we wanted to realize this play we were going to have to reach out to many other resources. We utilized an Edgerton grant which enables us to afford a slightly bigger-cast world premiere, and also reached out to several individuals and companies who are passionate Sheila Callaghan fans. And Rattlestick, who was interested in producing the play themselves, also came aboard as co-producers. By invoking not just some, but all of these resources, as well as a whole design team who are able to make our relative ten cents look like a million bucks, we were able to pull together enough resources to finally program this play.

So this is the result of a process that started at least five years ago in the mind and heart of Sheila Callaghan, and grew under the collaboration of countless artists who helped with the development and production of this play, as well as the passionate supporters who made it financially possible to realize. Now that’s what we call a village.

And of course, it would all be meaningless unless we were able to share it with you. Thank you, you intrepid theatregoers, for being this village’s final and crucial inhabitants.

As ever, we hope you enjoy the ride!

Jessica Kubzansky & Michael Michetti, Co-Artistic Directors for The Theatre @ Boston Court

Everything You Touch: Review Rundown

latimesCRITICS’ PICK: The performances, particularly of the two leads, are confident, nuanced and memorable. And the rich sensory feast Kubzansky and her team have served up — which also includes lighting by Jeremy Pivnick, sound by John Zalewski and witty props by John Burton — is a powerful reminder of why beauty, heartless though it may be, holds us in such thrall.

Click here to read the entire review.

la-weekly-logoGO! François-Pierre Couture’s stark white set is littered with mannequin limbs, an apt metaphor for the dehumanizing, fragmentary gaze exerted on women’s bodies by others and themselves. Kirsten Vangsness brilliantly captures the neurotic excitement of a loner beside herself in the company of Tyler Pierce’s charismatic egoist. As Louella, Amy French confronts Kate Maher’s delectable bitchiness with a wholesome equanimity.

Click here to read the entire review.

the stage struck review“Everything You Touch” delivers that remarkable combination of satisfaction and conversation starter that makes for one kind of excellent theater. And since shows that make you think are The Theatre at Boston Court’s bread and butter, it is no surprise that the show is being held over. The special efforts it took to make this world premiere happen certainly prove to be worth it.

Click here to read the entire review.

StageRawPICK OF THE WEEK …director Jessica Kubzansky gives the play an exceptional world premiere. In addition to extracting superb performances from almost all of the players, Kubzansky orchestrates her team of award-winning designers to implement tech elements that both elevate and demonstrate her deep understanding of Callaghan’s play.

Click here to read the entire review.

2010-08-25 THR SketchThe cast is so superb that even the omnipresent models, both real and ghostly (another echo ofFollies), stir our empathy. Vangsness, a longtime mainstay of Theatre of NOTE as well as Garcia onCriminal Minds, wrings out every potential character cliché in her deeply personal incarnation of a standard type in contemporary comedy and drama, while Pierce displays the arrogance and insecurity of a truly creative man with old-school dash, an antihero capable of both superficiality and stature simultaneously. Yet the most convincing range and layered writing are reserved for Maher’s Esme, a caricature of Manhattan bile and self-absorption who undergoes perhaps the largest odyssey of transformation of all.

Click here to read the entire review.

artsinlaCallaghan’s bizarre, penetratingly poetic dialogue must be a challenge for any director, which is why this play is lucky to be in the capable deft hands of director Jessica Kubzansky. François-Pierre Couture designed the stunningly sparse set, and John Burton created the Dali-like props from mannequin parts. Other design elements include wildly painterly projections by Adam Flemming; creamy yet stark lighting by Jeremy Pivnik; and an echoing, clanky sound design by John Zalewski, who also contributes a quiet but haunting original music score.

Click here to read the entire review.

stagescene_wowThere’s no L.A. theater quite like The Theatre @ Boston Court for challenging audiences with plays that can, when things go as right as they do in Sheila Callaghan’s initially mystifying Everything You Touch, both stimulate the brain cells and touch the heart.

Click here to read the entire review.

stageandcinemaSpeaking of which, at the top of the show we witness the most amusing and jaw-dropping fashion show in theater history. Jenny Foldenauer’s soon-to-be award-winning costume design echoes a style review which is read by Esme: “The gothic, the treacherous, and the peculiar.” I see the female fashions as an über-clever mash up of Star Wars, Coco Chanel, and Later, Foldenauer’s line of 70’s wear, which is mass produced for sale at Dillard’s, is a riotous collision of 50’s housewife, 60’s mod, and 70’s exaggerated sunniness set in rich and ghastly-but-gorgeous autumnal colors.

Click here to read the entire review.

lifeinlaThe hard work of Kubzansky and Callaghan along with the cast is more than evident in Boston Court’s production of Everything You Touch. The interactions between the characters flow harmoniously as does the interchangeable set in which a chorus of models are integrated into each scene as random elements of décor. In a panel discussion following the performance, the actors agreed that it was the company’s collective belief in the play that gave them the strength to undertake such an ambitious production complete with 420 lighting cues, 220 sound cues, and 120 costume changes.

Click here to read the entire review.

neon tommyPerhaps, when they (whoever “they” are) look back in 50 years, today’s playwriting will make sense, and playwrights like Sarah Ruhl and Sheila Callaghan will be lauded as the Tennessee Williams and Arthur Millers of their era, and I’ll be just another example of a critic who didn’t recognize that these women are ahead of their time.

Click here to read the entire review.

Everything You Touch: Preview video

A touch of Everything You Touch, by Sheila Callaghan from Boston Court on Vimeo.