Barrington Stage Company: Musical Theater Incubator

By Kris Wilton   |   Tuesday, August 7, 2012
0 Comments   0 comments.

August 7, 2012

Babak Tafti and Remi Sandri in The North Pool (photo by Kevin Sprague.)

Hailed by the Boston Globe as “one of the jewels in the state’s crown,” the Barrington Stage Company [BSC] in Pittsfield, in the Berkshires, has established itself since its founding in 1995 as a destination for locals and vacationers alike and as an incubator for new theater, especially musical theater. In 2004, the BSC developed and premiered The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, an infectious show by William Finn that not only made it to Broadway in 2005, but swept that year’s Tony awards. In 2006 BSC opened its Musical Theatre Lab, in which Finn mentors writers as they develop new work, staging everything from readings to full productions.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know composers’ work early in their careers and really to help them,” Julianne Boyd, BSC’s founder and artistic director, told me. “Bill Finn is a marvelous mentor. He tells these young writers they can do it.”

“We have very high expectations from them,” she added, “and they generally meet them. They just need to have that opportunity to have that first show.”

Coming out of the Musical Theatre Lab this summer is a workshop of The Black Suits, a new rock musical about a high school garage band on Long Island trying to win a battle of the bands. (August 16 – September 2; music and lyrics by Joe Iconis; Book by Joe Iconis and Robert Emmett Maddock)

The Lab is also staging a reading of the unlikely sounding The Suicide: A Musical Comedy. Set in Stalin’s USSR, it’s about an unemployed curmudgeon who decides to kill himself in order to achieve fame. Friends and neighbors join in on the plot, hoping to exploit the death for fun and profit. Based on a farce written in 1928 by Nikolai Erdman, whom Stalin punished with twenty years at a Siberian labor camp in addition to banning his work, it’s been adapted by David Bridel. (August 26-27)

Also getting off the ground this summer is Mr. Finn’s Cabaret, a small space featuring performers from the company or from New York. It’s selling out regularly.

Meanwhile, in the non-musical category is The North Pool, which is having its East Coast premiere. Written by Rajiv Joseph, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony nominee, this thriller about a high school principal and a Middle Eastern transfer student has received kudos for superb acting and a tight atmosphere of suspense. (Through August 11)

The next mainstage production is See How They Run, a British comedy about a vicar’s wife trying to find her way in a small English village. “It’s a hilarious farce,” Boyd says. “Some people think tragedies are hard to do – no, farces are. It’s split-second timing; they’re not funny if there’s not a character behind all of the antics.” (August 9-26)

Summer Arts Weekend: It's All About Balance with Flooky and The Beans

By Stacy Buchanan   |   Tuesday, July 24, 2012
0 Comments   0 comments.

July 24, 2012

Flooky and the Beans (photo credit: Ryan Welch, 2012.)

Bobo Bean: "You may be wondering: where do we come from? How did we get here? What is a robot doing hanging around with a bunch of beans?"

Flooky, the Robot Boy: "Well, I wanted to teach the Beans about the wonders of technology!"

Emma Bean: “And we want to show Flooky the beauty and natural wonders of nature!"

Then together they sing the praises of keeping a balance between both, a quality that is never too early (or late) to learn, especially in our age of being constantly connected. And that’s what Flooky and the Beans, a Boston-based children’s music group about a robot obsessed with technology that makes friends with a bunch of beans who appreciate the beauty of nature, are all about.

“The nature/technology question is something we all seem to struggle with in this modern world,” says Rob Zammarchi (Bobo Bean). “We are all encouraged to keep up with the latest innovations in tech and incorporate them into our daily lives. While it is exciting to explore the possibilities, it seems many of us are seeking to find the proper balance and get back to the simple pleasures of nature.”

It was back in the ‘90s when Rob and his wife Emily (Emma Bean) first began recording children’s songs. Shortly after, the duo set out to further develop the characters and a concept for an animated cartoon series. But after having children of their own, and attending live performances by The Wiggles and Dan Zanes and Friends, they saw new opportunity and turned their work into a live action children's entertainment program.

Now Flooky the Robot and Bobo, Emma, Pepi, and Jojo Bean take to the stage providing children ages three to eight with an engaging live show that incorporates a combination of learning intelligences including music, vocabulary, and math. It’s an environment where they’re empowered to be active decision makers, explore their curiosity, and most important, have fun!

Flooky and the Beans will be performing on the main stage at the Boston Summer Arts Weekend at 11am on Saturday, July 28th.

Summer Arts Weekend: Bonaparte Dazzles and it's MAGIC!

By Stacy Buchanan   |   Tuesday, July 24, 2012
0 Comments   0 comments.

July 24, 2012

Bonaparte (photo:

I was eight when I attended my first magic show. I was at a birthday party for my friend Sean, a self-proclaimed magician since discovering he had a knack for guessing which card I pulled out of the pile. The real magician’s name was Daring Dan, and not only did he bring a rabbit named Jasper that he made disappear numerous times, he also had a way with balloon bending.

While in line to get my balloon I wanted to ask for something spectacular, so I thought long and hard. And when it was finally my turn, I walked up with a roaring confidence and asked Daring Dan, innocently, for a pepperoni pizza with a few onions. He graciously smiled and sent me away with a pink butterfly. I was still tickled silly that I got to see a real magic show, and now had a balloon animal, that I of course named “Pepperoni Pizza with a Few Onions”.

And that’s what magicians do best no matter what your age–they put a smile on your face! Bonaparte, one of Boston’s favorite magicians, has been doing this in the area for quite some time.

“The local arts are very important to me—as both a performer and as a person who appreciates the impact that being exposed to the arts had on me as a child,” says Bonaparte. “As a full-time professional entertainer, I now have the opportunity to share my magic, humor and sophisticated silliness with audiences ranging in age from small children to our elder community.”

Bonaparte has a knack for captivating audiences with his award-winning magic blended with comedy, audience participation, origami, and balloon sculpture.

“I particularly take pleasure in dazzling the children at Children’s Hospital or at other venues where my participation allows me to take frowns and magically transform them into big smiles! It is times like that—that I really love my job!”

So add a little magic–and some new memories–into your weekend by treating yourself and your family to a magic show full of smiles and surprises with Bonaparte. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’ll finally get a pepperoni pizza with a few onions balloon.

Bonaparte will be performing at the Boston Summer Arts Weekend at 12:15 pm on Saturday, July 28th.

Review: Jack Ferver's Two Alike at the ICA

By Kris Wilton   |   Friday, July 13, 2012
0 Comments   0 comments.

July 13, 2012

Jack Ferver in Two Alike, photo by Liza Voll.

Usually I love Q&As with artists. I generally find hearing about process at least as interesting as the work itself, and often more so.

But last night when performer Jack Ferver came out to discuss his new work Two Alike at the ICA, I could not get out of the room fast enough.

The performance was so powerful and poignant and disturbing, so tender and raw and exposed that I just didn’t want to hear Jack, who is a friend of a friend and whom I know to be smart and thoughtful and entertaining, and whose work I’ve been following for years, regain his usual composure.

A dark exploration of growing up gay, Two Alike is a collaboration between Ferver and the sculptor Mark Swanson, who designed a mirror-backed set reminiscent of the audition stage in A Chorus Line. As in most of Ferver’s work, the piece, which I’d call dance theater but which is most often performed in museum and gallery settings, blends choreography and mostly confessional monologue.

Throughout Two Alike, thanks in part to really fantastic lighting design, Ferver morphs from closeted gay boy hamming it up in his bedroom mirror to sultry, hot guy in dance club to grown-up goofball prone to Pee Wee Herman-like maneuvers. But the stories he tells and interprets are often agonizing.

A masterful performer, he excels at finding that vibrating line between comedy and horror. He often repeats scenes, eliciting hysterical laughter at first – he’s got great comic delivery, and a really funny face – and fear and foreboding the next. In Two Alike, he did this by acting out a scene from the film Return to Oz, which he (or the narrator) said he’d loved as a child and obsessively acted out at home.

I later found myself thinking how much gays in the U.S.– men especially– have in common with African-Americans; both are held up as cultural idols and as pariahs. We’ve welcomed some onto our stages and TV screens and sports fields (So charismatic! So funny!), but that doesn’t mean the majority aren’t still shouldering staggering prejudice, and even real abuse, as Two Alike suggests. “Nowhere will ever be as scary as here,” Ferver says in one scene about being gay in the heartland. “It will be dangerous, but different dangerous.”

By curtain call, Ferver looked wrung out and almost embarrassed, as if he’d just woken up from a trance and realized what he revealed. I don’t remember him ever looking like that before, but it, too, lent power to the performance. I’m still thinking about it.

A Conversation on Black Theater in Boston

By Bridgit Brown   |   Monday, June 25, 2012
0 Comments   0 comments.

June 23, 2012

The Theatre Communications Group (TCG) is a national organization founded in 1961 to facilitate communication among professional, community and university theatres. Model The Movement, TCG’s national conference, took place in Boston last  weekend and over 980 people attended this highly anticipated event focusing on transforming theatre into a movement for the digital age. Before the conference, Akiba Abaka, Producing Director of Up You Mighty Race Company and Barbara Lewis, Director of The William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture, spoke to us about their involvement in the conference.

Akiba Abaka                                    Barbara Lewis
Producing Director                         Director
Up You Mighty Race Company      The Trotter Inst., UMass, Boston

Q. What is your involvement in the conference?

Akiba Abaka: I am a member of the Host Committee, which is comprised of theatre leaders. I was also selected for the Young Leaders of Color Program, which is a professional development program that TCG runs during the conference for theatre leaders of color. Young Leaders of Color is for people under 40 who are making strides in theatre. There are four people from Boston who were selected. You had to be nominated and then you had to apply for it. The purpose of the program is to provide professional development and opportunities for leaders of color in the field. It’s TCG's way of encouraging development in the realm of theatre. It's their way of encouraging and developing theatre administrators because the reality is that there aren't a lot of people of color acting as administrators. We're on stage, but we don’t have leadership positions. We aren't necessarily running the stage. So this is TCG's way of balancing that and increasing diversity. They provide different workshops and lectures that are dedicated to the young leaders of color throughout the conference.

Barbara Lewis: The relationship between TCG and black folks is good but reflective of the cultural community between black and white in terms of how we are sometimes marginalized and I think it's important to go. I plan to go. Benny Ambush is having a session on intergenerational leaders of color, which I think is very interesting. He indicated in his write up that it is more of an internal conversation for folks who self identify as people of color. I think there are some specific needs that black people in theatre have and for one thing it is very difficult for us to grow and sustain a relationship with the audience. There might be five or six theatre companies in Boston that are black and they have sporadic seasons. I think it would be really good if we can have a consistent presence. For me, it's kind of a strange conundrum. We have enormous talent here. There are people who are really committed, but in terms of the black theatre companies themselves, they are not as established as they could be.

I was at a cultural panel recently and one of the speakers was [National Museum of Afro-American Artist’s Director] Barry Gaither and one of the things that he said that really caught my attention was that Boston is city of high and low in terms of cultural organizations: either you are at the bottom, struggling to get out of the barrel or you at the top and there is very little middle. I think that is true and the middle is sort of where we almost don’t exist. That’s what I'm interested in, finding ways to get us from the bottom to, at least, the middle. How do we do that? I'm not exactly sure yet, but that's what I'm struggling with and I think that a lot of companies here are struggling with that. We have to get taller, we have to get stronger, we have to have more of a presence than we do even though, individually, there are pockets of great creativity and innovation, but how do we connect it all so that there is a really a force?

Q. What do you expect to gain from the TCG conference?

Akiba Abaka: TCG's conferences are always very helpful. This will be the third conference of theirs that I have attended. The conference has been helpful for me in the way of understanding the overall ecology of the field. At the conference there are workshops and discussions on everything from education to marketing to production. You're also networking with a very diverse group of people and theatres that have budgets from $25,000 to 25 million. There are people there who are where you are and where you aspire to be. Everyone is accessible. When I think about TCG in general, I think access. I think that they do make a serious effort to make theatre accessible to all people no matter the background. The conference reflects that, all of these people coming together and sharing what they know. One of the things I like about the conference is that a serious superstar or a theatre vendor in a very small part of America who had something really valuable to share about how they have been successful in their corner of the world may lead workshops. Also, TCG has a lot of programs, grants, and development programs that reflect a willingness to increase diversity in all areas.

Barbara Lewis: It's thrilling that TCG is here because it offers us an opportunity, but I'm choosing to look at it as a smorgasbord board and a place where I go and choose what is important to me and what's useful to me at this particular time. I want to get connections and new information. I want to be inspired. The ultimate goal is to get a glimmer of the direction in which to move to being a participant in this effort that some of us are making to raise our cultural capital.

The Hotel Nepenthe is Nothing Short of Bewitching

By Mary Tinti   |   Friday, June 22, 2012
0 Comments   0 comments.

June 22, 2012

Photo Credit: John Kuntz photographed by J. Stratton McCrady

BOSTON - If Thursday evening’s staging of the Elliot Norton award winning The Hotel Nepenthe is any indication, this year’s Emerging America Festival, according to the group’s website, “will bring together some of the country’s most promising performers, writers, companies, and directors for a weekend filled with energy, imagination, creativity, and drama” and is sure to be a big, bewitching wow. That’s no small statement, especially considering the four day, city-wide festival happens to coincide with the arrival of industry professionals in town for this year’s Theatre Communications Group conference. Welcome to Boston, theatre lovers, where groundbreaking playwriting and performances abound!

Written by John Kuntz, The Hotel Nepenthe is about as trippy, witty, snappy, funny, and creepy a production as you could hope to find. At its core, the play tells the story of several different characters that orbit the Hotel Nepenthe (named by Kuntz for the anti-depressant-like potion popular in ancient Greek literature). Some work or have stayed at the hotel, others just know of its infamous reputation. And yet all of these disparate personalities (a politician, his wife, and a prostitute; a bellhop and his sister; a rental car agency worker, a bus driver, and a cabbie; a mourning mother and a fairy godmother…) are connected to one another in ways both elusive and confounding.

Kuntz’s dialogue is incredibly, pleasurably smart; David R. Gammons’ direction, set, and costume designs make the many micro-scenes feel related but discrete; and Bill Barclay’s original sound effects underscore the hilarious, schizophrenic energy pulsing through this play. Actors Marianna Bassham, Daniel Berger-Jones, Georgia Lyman, and Kuntz, himself, are among the most versatile and gifted I’ve ever seen. Playing over three characters each, they were at all times believable and enthralling, even if there were parts of the overall script that seemed a bit inconclusive and unresolved. The unsewn loose ends weren’t terribly bothersome, though, as they somehow complemented the charming “Twilight Zone” aura present throughout the production.

With frequent references to beloved American sitcoms (like “Bewitched,” “The Odd Couple,” “One Day at A Time,” and “The Jeffersons,” etc.) and Starland Vocal Band’s hit song, “Afternoon Delight” (an inclusion sure to touch a special place in the hearts of all “Arrested Development” fans) The Hotel Nepenthe is a wild and wonderful ride well worth taking this weekend. Treat yourselves to some great local theatre and experience Emerging America, if you can.

Huntington Theatre Company presents the Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s production of The Hotel Nepenthe
Written by John Kuntz, Directed by David R. Gammons
Thursday 6/21 at 7:30PM and 10:30PM, Friday 6/22 at 8PM
Saturday 6/23 at 2PM and 8PM, Sunday 6/24 at 2PM

About the Authors
Kris Wilton Kris Wilton
Kris is a freelance arts journalist who has contributed reported pieces and reviews to outlets including the Huffington Post,,, Modern Painters, Art+Auction, Art New England, New England Home, Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice,, ARTnews, Philadelphia Weekly, Emerging Photographer, Photo District News, and RL Magazine.
Stacy Buchanan Stacy Buchanan
Stacy is California born and raised, and happily living in Boston.  By day, she’s a seasoned digital marketer, social media enthusiast and pop culture consumer. After studying special effects makeup and film for over 20 years, she is also full-time film buff and by night, produces content for horror publications, focusing on classic and contemporary horror films.
Bridgit Brown Bridgit Brown
Bridgit Brown is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College ('98). She was a Fulbright Lecturing and Research Scholar in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, and her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bay State Banner, Color Magazine, Black Perspectives Now, Colorlines of Architecture, Exhale Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and Somerville Review.
Mary Tinti Mary Tinti
Mary is a Koch Curatorial Fellow at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. On her blog, Dress For Sports, she says, "I love innovative public art, creative design, and unique intersections of architecture, sculpture, and installation.  And I love stumbling upon cool collisions of art and everyday life." Mary has a Ph.D. in art history from Rutgers University.

Featured Theater Blog Entries

"Porgy and Bess" at A.R.T.: Transformed and Illuminating
by Kim McLarin
Kim McLarin takes in the new production of Porgy and Bess” at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater with the question “Why now?” and finds a surprising answer in the company’s new version of the 75-year-old opera.

Read More
"Porgy and Bess" at A.R.T.: Transformed and Illuminating
by Kim McLarin
ArtSceNE Curator Kim McLarin takes in the new production of “Porgy and Bess” at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater with the question “Why now?” and finds a surprising answer in the company’s new version of the 75-year-old opera.

Read More

Support for WGBH is provided by:
Become a WGBH sponsor


You are on page 1 of 11   |