by Nancy Churnin, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, a play about a housewife named Nora who rebels against the unequal treatment she receives as a woman, sent shockwaves when the play premiered in 1879.
And it's still making waves, as is Lucas Hnath's ambitious 2017 Broadway sequel, A Doll's House, Part 2, which pictures Nora returning home 15 years after she slams the door on her husband and children.
Now Dallas-Fort Worth audiences will get a chance to see both plays in overlapping runs directed by women at theaters helmed by women.
In fact, the two companies — WaterTower Theatre in Addison and Stage West in Fort Worth — are offering discounts in order for patrons to see both shows. WaterTower's A Doll's House starts previews Oct. 12 and opens Oct. 15 at Addison Theatre Centre. A Doll's House, Part 2 starts previews Oct. 25 and opens Oct. 27.
A full-day experience is being offered on Nov. 3 for theatergoers who want to see A Doll's House at WaterTower at 2 p.m., followed by a talkback. The event continues with a dinner at Stage West at 6:30, followed by A Doll's House, Part 2 at 8.
A Doll's House, Part 2 has become the most produced play in regional theaters, according to a September survey by American Theater magazine. While A Doll's House has never gone out of fashion, Joanie Schultz, artistic director of WaterTower Theatre, didn't anticipate how much of a live wire it would be when she decided to adapt and direct it.
"I think what Nora is going through in this play has so many parallels to things I'm reading in the news right now," Schultz says. And while Schultz is careful not to make any political parallels, it's hard to miss the intersection between a play about a woman protesting against an entrenched power structure and the current #MeToo movement where women are speaking up about men taking advantage of powerful positions to try to silence them from reporting or getting justice for sexual harassment.
"I have so much admiration for Nora," Schultz says. "She is one of the bravest characters in all of drama. She's not the most educated. She's not the wisest. But she wakes up and she decides to act. In the moment of waking up, we have choices and she makes brave ones. I find her really inspiring."
Current events have also had an impact on the perspective Clare Shaffer, a newcomer from Washington, D.C., is bringing to her North Texas directing debut of A Doll's House, Part 2.
Like Schultz, Shaffer doesn't make political references, but she sees current instances of women being dismissed or overlooked as fitting into a larger pattern that's been in existence since, well, long before A Doll's House struck a nerve in 1879.
"Something that we were discussing in rehearsal that has been very liberating and exciting for me is the way the play helps you put a finger on the root of a prejudice," Shaffer says. "When I was growing up, I remember the times when I was in a room full of men and I felt talked over. I felt my voice was not heard as clearly. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel right. You think at first it must be an individual experience. It must just be me. Part of the power of #MeToo is that we realize that these are shared experiences, that there's a broader structure of systems that are in place that make these things happen."
While the popularity of A Doll's House and A Doll's House, Part 2 is a testament to how far we have to go, the strong role that women are taking in interpreting these stories for local audiences gives Shaffer hope that things may be improving.
It helps, too, Shaffer says, that instead of Schultz and Dana Schultes, executive producer of Stage West, competing with their overlapping shows, the two women have found a way to amplify the productions and make sure both Noras are heard loud and clear, from Addison to Fort Worth.
"It does feel like a crescendo," Shaffer says. "It feels like voices are getting louder and louder speaking out about inequality and how the experience of being a woman is intrinsically different from the experience of being a man."
SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE:
by Broadway World News Desk
Stage West presents the regional premiere of Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2.
In 1879, Henrik Ibsen's heroine Nora Helmer walked out the door, leaving her husband, children, and societal constraints behind her; Ibsen's revolutionary play A Doll's House propelled world drama into the modern age. Now, in an age when women's issues are even more in the spotlight, Lucas Hnath is revisiting the Helmer household in a bitingly funny and fascinating sequel to Ibsen's masterpiece. The Obie-winning A Doll's House, Part 2 will begin a 5-week regional premiere run on Thursday, October 25 at Fort Worth's Stage West.
It's been 15 years since Nora walked out, and her family has believed her dead. But suddenly, she's back-with an incredibly awkward favor to ask. She's become a highly successful writer, and her life is exactly what she wanted. But now Nora has found out, to her shock, that Torvald never actually filed their divorce papers, and she's in danger of being charged with fraud, and having everything taken away from her. She needs Torvald to proceed, as divorce is a simple process for a man, while a woman has to have evidence of mistreatment. But will he-can he-agree? As it turns out, Torvald has his own issues with the divorce, and so does daughter Emmy. In this taut theatrical showdown, the past and present collide, as Hnath interjects this period piece with some surprising and funny modern sensibilities.
Stage West is pleased to announce a partnership with WaterTower Theatre, who is presenting A Doll's House running October 12 through November 4. The two companies are offering a discount when patrons purchase a ticket to either show. Additionally, a full day experience will be provided with a pairing of the two productions on November 3 where audiences can attend a 2pm performance of A Doll's House plus a talkback at WaterTowerTheatre in Addison and then have dinner at Stage West and enjoy the 8pm performance of A Doll's House, Part 2 in Fort Worth. For more information about A Doll's House visit watertowertheatre.org.
Lucas Hnath's plays include The Christians (2014 Humana Festival), Red Speedo (Studio Theatre, DC), A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney (Soho Rep), Nightnight (2013 Humana Festival), Isaac's Eye (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Death Tax (2012 Humana Festival, Royal Court Theatre), and The Courtship of Anna Nicole Smith (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Lucas has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2011, and is a proud member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. He won the 2016 Obie Award for excellence in playwriting for Red Speedo and The Christians. Lucas is a winner of the 2012 Whitfield Cook Award for Isaac's Eye and received a 2013 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award Citation for Death Tax. He has also received commissions from the EST/Sloan Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Playwrights Horizons, New York University's Graduate Acting Program, and The Royal Court Theatre. Lucas holds a BFA and an MFA from New York University's Department of Dramatic Writing.
A Doll's House, Part 2 will be directed by Clare Shaffer, recently transplanted from Washington, DC. The cast features Shannon McGrann, critically acclaimed for her role as Margery in Hand to God at WaterTower Theatre, as Nora, while J. Brent Alford, who appeared as Sir Toby Belch in last summer's Trinity Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night, will appear as Torvald. Judy Keith, last at Stage West as Geena in A Funny Thing Happened...New York City, will appear as housekeeper Anne Marie, while Amber Marie Flores, recently seen in Newsies at Lyric Stage, will play daughter Emmy.
Set design is by Karlee Perego, with lighting design by Tamara Harris, costume design by Jeremy M. Bernardoni, sound design by Jorge Flores, and props/set decor by Lynn Lovett.
A Doll's House, Part 2 will preview Thursday, October 25 at 7:30 and Friday, October 26 at 8:00, and will run through Sunday, November 25. Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00. Ticket prices range from $31 to $35, with discounts for the preview performance, and for students, seniors, and military. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations are advised). Reservations and information are available through the Box Office (817-784-9378), or on the website, www.stagewest.org.
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
"Angry men don’t write the rules and guns don’t right the wrongs. America’s got a problem…Sondheim has a solution. Never a more poignant and relevant time in our current political climate than right now has it been so appropriate to produce a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. Pallas Theatre Collective is boldly daring to do so, and it draws striking attention to the world around us at present. Directed by Clare Shaffer with Musical Direction by Alex Thompson, this jarring and thought-provoking musical might be exactly what the nation needs to put the wheels of change spinning in motion."
"Director Clare Shaffer has framed up the production around a twisted carnival, fully interweaving this atmospheric idea into the performance by making each of the performers musicians as well. One might say that Shaffer’s musical mobilization of the actors was instrumental in executing her idea. At times, it completely replicates the notion of the band on the grand stand at a state fair... all of the individuals who take up instruments— be it euphonium, xylophone, triangle, or the more traditional trumpet, and trombone— do an exceptional job of playing their way through the score."
"Reinforcing the notion of the twisted carnival and warped wonderland are Properties Designer Pauline Lamb (who doubles as the show’s Choreographer) and Sound Designer Reid May. Lamb strings up various fairground-style prizes— complete with tickets— all across the back wall of the play space, to help cement the notion that each shot taken could be a simple carnival game on the midway. May’s auditory enhancements flow in the same vein with the congratulatory bell-dings when they “win their prize” if an assassin is successful. All of these support beams strengthen Shaffer’s concept, including the State-Fair-esque costume design by Joan Lawrence. The Proprietor’s Boat Hat, the gleaming whites of the ensemble, all of these little nuances help to complete the environment that Shaffer has envisioned for approaching Assassins.... Relevant, striking, and perfect for the time, Pallas Theatre Collective has a production that you’ll want to invest in."
"Pallas Theatre Collective's production, superbly directed by Clare Shaffer, follows the carnival-like atmosphere dictated by John Weidman's book.... The company plays Michael Starobin's complicated orchestrations with musical grace and perfection."
"Director Clare Shaffer proves that she is one of the area's best up and coming directors. She really gets into the heads of the assassins and makes them seem human rather than just lunatics... As presented by Pallas Theatre Collective, Assassins is one of those shows that is expertly executed by everyone involved."
"Director Clare Shaffer has ingeniously shoehorned the show into the black box at Logan by casting actors who double as musicians, such that at times they are the orchestra seated stage left and right and at times they are center stage singing and dancing and playing their instruments. The carnivalesque quotient of this choice pays off enormously in pleasure."
"...a delightfully sassy Assassins... Pallas has a track record of staging with panache contemporary musicals with political bite, and Assassinsterrifically showcases the company’s audacious command of the form... an inventive variety of staging styles... the material is entertaining and unsettling in equal measure."
"Clearly, this musical wants us to attend to the assassins’ interior lives in order to understand who they were as people and why they did what they did. Not to condone what they did. Not to make them out to be heroes or sympathetic. But to reckon with what made them each tick and not just dismiss them as deranged."
-DC Metro Theatre Arts
"Directed by Clare Shaffer with Musical Direction by Paige Rammelkamp, this strikingly beautiful musical tale— based on the novel by Robert Kames Waller— paints a picture indeed worth more than 1,000 words; it paints a picture of love, life, and loss, the inherent journey of the human being over time."
"Lawler is full of panache and personality and plays well against Brian Lyons-Burke, who plays Marge’s devoted husband Charlie. Lyons-Burke has an almost deadpan response to some of the absurd little moments that Lawler’s character goes up on, complimenting her comedic skills flawlessly with his exacting delivery."
"A twinkling gem amid a sky full of stars, Chani Wereley... is best praised for her time spent as Marian. It’s just one song, just one moment, but so painstakingly perfect in both its emotional connection and vocal delivery that it stops the production and swells the heart simultaneously. Wereley is richly invested in this number, fabricating the character’s pain into something nearly palpable; this tragically beautiful performance of “Another Life” is a show-stopping moment not easily forgotten."
"Collins and Meyers find unique ways of creating depth to [Michael and Carolyn], giving them a lively existence on the stage."
"Taking the character of Bud and fleshing him out into a multi-dimensional human being, rather than the shallow and static character that Norman penned him to be, Wheeler finds deep emotional currents running through the layers of Bud and uses the music of the show to connect to those currents, bringing them readily to the surface."
"What do you call a man like Ryan Burke? Versatile? Such a simple word hardly seems to fully ensconce what he’s capable of in the role of Robert Kincaid. Talented? Again the word seems ordinary, lacking in depth when it comes to the sounds he makes, the feelings he expresses. So what do you call a man like that? Extraordinarily gifted, sounds about right, well-fitting the bill when it comes to Burke’s portrayal of the photographic journalist. Exceptionally understanding falls in line with his approach to the persona of Robert and how it fits into the overall story of The Bridges of Madison County. There is more than an honesty to the way he presents Robert Kincaid; there is a vulnerability that is readily present right from his first sung moment..."
"Erin Granfield has spectacular consistency with the Italian affectation she cases over her spoken and sung English. There is something to be said for the way she carries the accent into her singing voice, authenticating the songs in a way that feels true to the character’s origins. Granfield covers the full story arc of Francesca, from “To Build a Home” through to “Always Better” and hits all of the emotional peaks and valleys along the way."
"A sensitive, artfully realized production of the work marks a whole new chapter in the life of the Red Branch Theatre Company... Overseeing the production is D.C.-based Director Clare Shaffer, with first-rate musical support from Conductor Paige Rammelkamp... On opening night, the audience was clearly taken with the performances of the two adult leads, also making their Red Branch debut...
"Erin Granfield brings a lovely trained soprano to the vocally demanding role of Francesca. From her opening memories as an Italian war bride in “To Build a Home” through her complex relationships to family and her adopted American community, Granfield never makes a single dramatic misstep...
"Burke brings some of the show’s most complex and defined vocal shadings to the riveting solos “Temporarily Lost” and “It All Fades Away...
"Together, Burke and Granfield make the romantic duet between Robert and Francesca, “Falling Into You,” one of the most touchingly heartfelt musical moments of this theatrical year."
"Director Shaffer, with the active help of Choreographer Kathy Gordon, keeps the ensemble shifting through pretty stage pictures all evening on Scenic Designer Jacob Cordell’s skewed picture-frame set."
-DC Metro Theatre Arts
"When I saw the movie adaptation of Robert James Waller’s book, “Bridges of Madison County,” I wept at the beautiful simplicity of the story. When I saw the musical version on Broadway more than 20 years later, I wept again at hearing the perfectly written and performed score by Jason Robert Brown. And when I saw it last weekend in Red Branch Theatre’s stellar production I cried like a baby through most of the second act. Because this time I was struck by the not just the story, not just the magnificent voices, but the perfect blend of the two elements. This show is a knock-out that packs an emotional punch that can leave you breathless."
"Clare Shaffer has cleverly directed this piece with a slow, sure hand... she added enough deft touches to keep the action moving... With the added touch of silhouettes behind a gauzy backdrop, she displays a terrific sense of theatricality."
"I’m running out of superlatives to write about Ryan Burke... His Robert is at once tender and tentative, and when he makes up his mind that Francesca is all he’s ever been looking for... it brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. But then again that happened pretty much every time he opened his mouth to sing."
"Erin Granfield is one of those rare actresses on local stages that makes you completely forget she’s playing a character. She is Francesca. She’s stepping into some mighty big shoes, following the likes of Meryl Streep and Kelli O’Hara. Scratch that – this lady’s got her own shoes. With a voice that can go from a whisper to a wail and rip your heart out along the way, she’s perfection in this part... In her scenes with Robert, we watch her resolve melt away as she throws herself into an affair that she knows will cost her dearly. And we see it all in Ms. Granfield’s expressions and her body language... From the opening number “To Build A Home” to her final “Always Better” her voice is amazing. She is a gifted performer and a true artist."
"I loved every minute of it. Treat yourself, but bring your hanky. You’re going to need it."
-MD Theatre Guide
WYPR RADIO REVIEW - Listen Here
"The voices are simply wonderful. Each actor/singer has special gifts to offer the audience through their personality, their genuine love and sometimes loathing for each other, their youthful energy, and their total embrace of this funny, beautiful, witty, and hummable musical score and book written by local Del Ray musician, Neal Learner...
This show mirrors real life, not a fairy tale... a witty and sometimes moving celebration of the beauty of the arc of life from its beginning to its end...
It’s very powerful and will completely catch you off guard... an unforgettable evening of great music, greater emotions, and tons of fun."
"[LIFE] explores the laughter, the love, and the sorrow of ordinary life, as told by one family...
the themes – life, love, loss, journey – are so universal that it is easy to relate, so the musical is funny, and sometimes moving...
Clare Shaffer directs this show with a deft hand, bringing the heart and the laughter out of this story...
LIFE is appropriately named, showing us not just a glimpse of a story, but the way that one person’s story grows into the next’s. And it is brought to life with humor, with wit, and with great energy by this talented cast."
"Top-notch performers, frequent laughter, applause, audience sing-alongs, and an all-in standing hymn recital characterized a night at Rockville Musical Theatre’s production of Monty Python’s SPAMALOT. The fine points and flourishes in this farce about finding the Holy Grail made for a supremely satisfying experience. The production would make Monty Python proud."
"...the visual puns flow as quickly as each scene transition."
-Theatre To The Point
"Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s production of Sister Act, directed by Clare Shaffer, is a funny spectacle of a musical... it combines wonderful music and singing with excellent directing, lighting, costumes, and set design – a perfect way to kick off the theater’s 50th season."
"great humor... high energy... toe-tapping... priceless... powerful... heartfelt... hilarious... beautiful... an enchanting evening of musical comedy under the stars that will have you clapping along in the end."
"With contagious jubilation, these sisters are beckoning people in straight from the boats in the harbor to hear the praises of one phenomenal Sister Act... fine direction... wonderful singing... clever design work... disco-party lighting... striking moments... emotional tethers... a torrent of energy and elation... full of voices that are vivacious and personalities that pop... Director Clare Shaffer pushes the joy like she pushes the tempo: hard and fast... All together the production generates a groove; there is a palpable pulse of shiny happiness and smooth sailing all across the board and that can be well attributed to Shaffer and Paige Austin Rammelkamp."
"Annapolis' take on this musical is bold, spanning diverse social and religious viewpoints — from sheltered nuns to hardened mobsters... Every woman becomes stronger... this production traces that growth of the nuns — each profoundly changed by Deloris's Sister Mary Clarence as she is also changed by the sisters' acceptance of her...
The convent is brought to life by director Clare Shaffer, who says she recognizes "the beauty and harmony in the differences more than in similarities," reminding us we can learn from people who are different from ourselves."
-THE BALTIMORE SUN
MARYLAND THEATRE GUIDE'S
TOP 5 SHOWS OF THE WEEK:
"Engaging... professional... lovely... incredible... resonant... poignant... surprising... exceptional... gorgeous...
Director Clare Shaffer puts it best when she said '(“La Mancha”) is about the power of communal storytelling-- why and how we tell stories, and the way they shape the communities we live in… they are what unite us, what drive us and what inspire us to dream.' Especially when that dream is an impossible dream." ★★★★★
-Stephanie House, MD THEATRE GUIDE, CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW
"Layered... Passionate... Heartwarming... Terrific... Elaborate... Beautiful... The Arlington Players' production of 'Man of La Mancha' is filled with exceptional performances and is quite inspiring. Don't miss it...
When the cast comes together in the end to sing “The Impossible Dream,” I did find myself quite moved. I also found myself looking at the musical in a different light. This isn’t a musical about a man telling a story. It’s about an artist and how his work brings a community together, as both Cervantes and Quixote bring a community of people together with their stories." ★★★★★
-PJ McMahon, DC METRO THEATRE ARTS, CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW
"It’s been 33 seasons – half the troupe’s existence – since the Arlington Players staged “Man of La Mancha,” and the opening production of the 2016-17 season proved worth the wait."
-Matt Reville, INSIDENOVA, CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW
RANKED #1 BY MD THEATRE GUIDE IN TOP 5 SHOWS OF THE WEEK
Celebrate the Pulitzer Prize: Staged Readings of Six Pulitzer Prize-Winning Plays/Musicals Tonight Through Sunday at Olney Theatre Center
By Nicole Hertvik on September 30, 2016
Happy Birthday, Pulitzer Prize!
This weekend only, Olney Theatre Center and Maryland Humanities celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes with Celebrate the Pulitzer Prize: Staged readings of six Pulitzer Prize-winning plays.
The festival kicks off tonight, September 30th at 8:00 PM with Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire directed by Amber Jackson.
Saturday, October 1st’s selections are D.L. Coburn’s The Gin Game, directed by Patrick Pearson at 1 PM; August Wilson’s Fences, directed by Michael Bobbitt at 4 PM; and Fiorello! (Jerome Weidmann and George Abbott, music by Jerry Bock), directed by Christopher Youstra at 7:30 PM.
On Sunday, October 2nd audiences can see Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Water by the Spoonful, directed by Clare Shaffer at 1 PM; and Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, adapted and directed by Derek Goldman at 5 PM.
The staged readings at Olney Theatre Center are part of the national Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative celebration of the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes.
I plan to see as many of these gems as possible! Join me?
Celebrate the Pulitzer Prize (Staged Reading Series) plays September 30-October 2, 2016, at Olney Theatre Center – 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 924-3400 or purchase them online.
"BEST OF THE 2016 CAPITAL FRINGE!" ★★★★★
by Nicole Hertvik on July 10, 2016
DC METRO THEATRE ARTS
Love in Ruins is the third Capital Fringe show written by playwright Paul Handy. Handy’s Cry for the Gods and and Carry a Big Stick appeared at the festival in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
Handy would appear to specialize in historical plays, and he didn’t have to look far from home for inspiration for his latest play. In Handy’s words, Love in Ruins is “the true story of my in-laws (Mayte and Guillermo in the play), who met and fell in love in Valencia during the Spanish Civil War. They were truly survivors of all the deprivations that occurred during the war as Franco’s troops advanced slowly toward Valencia. This is a story of people surviving and seeking love when all conditions for love appear to be hopeless.”
Mayte and Guillermo meet in 1936, the first year of the Spanish Civil War. They come from two different worlds: Mayte is a liberal peasant, a student of literature and supporter of the Republicans while Guillermo is from the conservative upper crust of Spanish society, believes in order and tradition, and is a Franco supporter.
The cast was led by Thais Menendez as Mayte and Calvin McCullough as Guillermo. Both turned in solid, convincing performances. Daniel Santiago and Sheila Blanc rounded out the cast as Vicente and Josefina.
Calvin McCullough’s Guillermo experienced the most character growth as a man who starts out full of staunch convictions and must come to terms with change as the world falls apart around him.
Menendez played Mayte as a strong woman, able to handle whatever the world throws at her. The fact that Menendez is a bilingual English/Spanish speaker lent to the play’s authenticity.
Director Clare Shaffer paid great attention to detail in preparing the show. She spoke to the actual surviving “Guillermo” and several of the props onstage, including a Spanish Republican flag, were owned by the couple. The show involves numerous changes in locale (a library, a coffee shop, a bull ring and two homes) and Shafer impressively staged this with minimal props and without letting the changes be confusing or distracting to audiences.
Mark Platenberg’s music and sound design was a great asset to the show. We hear the crowd as the couple attends a bull fight and when Franco finally wrests control of Spain from the Republicans, it becomes a visceral moment onstage through an authentic sounding radio broadcast of a Franco speech (voiced in Spanish by Daniel Santiago).
Jessica Aimone deserves attention for the beautiful cover art she created for the show’s program which depicts the lovely Thais Menendez in traditional Spanish attire in front of the Spanish Republican flag.
I felt that Handy’s script could benefit from tightening up and enriching the dialogue. The story was entertaining but it plodded along at times and lacked a certain zing that one hopes would occur during moments of deep human connection.
That said, Love in Ruins is a very beautiful story and all the more so knowing that it was created by people with close ties to the fascinating lives it depicts.
Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.
RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ BEST OF THE 2016 CAPITAL FRINGE!
Reviews, previews, and other coverage of Shaffer shows.