News: Performances Begin Tonight for “Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws”

I am proud to announce that the New York premiere of Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws by Tennessee Williams and directed by yours truly Jonathan Warman, will begin performances tonight  Thursday, October 27, at 10pm, at The Club at La MaMa, (74A E 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery). Direct from a sold-out run at the 2011 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival,  Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws will play October 27-November 13, 2011. Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws plays Thursday through Saturday at 10pm, with a Sunday performance at 5:30pm, at The Club at La MaMa, 74A East Fourth Street at Second Avenue.  General admission tickets are $18; student/senior tickets are $13. For tickets and information, visit lamama.org or phone 212-475-7710.

Society matrons and street hustlers intent on enjoying a cocktail-laden lunch break into song-and-dance numbers as apocalypse approaches. The production features John Waters phenomenon Mink Stole, as society lady Madge, together with Everett Quinton, a core member of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company, as a lecherous and prophetic restaurant manager.The remainder of the cast of Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws is Erin Markey (NIGHT MOTHER with Cole Escola and Kenny Mellman, Jeffery and Cole Casserole, and her solo musical, Puppy Love: A Stripper’s Tail); Regina Bartkoff (Love, Medea, Struck/Break); Joseph Keckler (Stuck Elevator at the Sundance Theater Lab, John Moran’s experimental opera Saori’s Birthday, You Will Experience Silence, Jobz, Human Jukebox, A Voice and Nothing More); Max Steele (You Will Experience Silence, Jeffery and Cole Casserole); and Charles Schick (The Strangest Kind of Romance, Back Bog Beast Bait , Humanity at The Living Theatre, Love, Medea).

Mink Stole’s career as an actor began nearly 45 years ago, when she was introduced to John Waters in Provincetown in the summer of 1966.  She has since appeared in 13 films directed by Mr. Waters, creating such roles as Connie Marble in Pink Flamingos, Taffy Davenport in Female Trouble, and Dottie Hinkle in Serial Mom.  Among her non-John Waters roles, she has played Natasha Lyonne’s mom in Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader, and a bible-addled death row inmate in Steve Balderson’s Stuck!  In last year’s All About Evil, directed by Joshua Grannell, she was Evelyn, the too-talkative librarian, and this year she continued her recurring role as Aunt Helen in installments Four and Five of the popular Eating Out film series by Q. Alan Brocka. On stage, Mink was lucky to have the chance to work on two shows with the late, great Charles Ludlam, Love’s Tangles Web, andSecret Lives of the Sexists.  She worked with the legendary Cockettes in the early 1970s.  More recently, she appeared as Autolycus in the L.A. Women’s Shakespeare Company’s production of The Winter’s Tale, a role which led her to her new passion, music.  With her Wonderful Band (West Coast and East Coast editions) for the last few years she has been performing a cabaret act, Do Re MiNK, and her Christmas show.  She is currently working on her first CD.

Everett Quinton has recently appeared in The Witch of Edmonton at Red Bull Theater, as FlorenceWexler in Devil Boys from Beyond at New World Stages, as Dr. Caius in The Merry Wives of Windsorat the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., and as Jacob Marley in The McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. Everett is also a member of Cleveland State University’s Summer Stages where he appeared as Madam Rosepettle in O Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad. Everett previously appeared at Red Bull Theater in Women Beward Women (2008 CallawayAward, Best Actor). Everett was a member of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company and served as its Artistic Director from 1987-1997. He has appeared in Charles Ludlam’s MedeaThe Secret Lives of the SexistsSalammboGalasThe Artificial Jungle and the original production of The Mystery ofIrma Vep (Obie and Drama Desk Award). He was also seen in Georg Osterman’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Brother Truckers (Bessie Award); Richard and Michael Simon’s Murder at Minsing Manor(Drama League Award); as well as in his own plays: Carmen, Linda, MovielandA Tale of Two Cities(Obie Award), and Call Me Sarah Bernhardt. Everett has directed revivals of Charles Ludlam’s Big Hotel, Camille, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet and How to Write a Play. He also directed Brother Truckers(in New York, London and as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Carmen, Sebastian Stewart’sUnder the Kerosene Moon, as well as The Beaux Stratagem at the Yale Rep and Treasure Island at theOmaha Theatre for Young People. Film and TV credits include Natural Born KillersBig Business,Deadly IllusionForever Lulu, “Miami Vice” and “Law & Order.”

Director Jonathan Warman’s New York theatre credits include Andru’s Head at NeoNeo Theatre  (new musical, featuring Brooke Elliott  from Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”),  J. Stephen Brantley’sStruck / Break (Emerging Artists Theatre), American Fabulous (NeoNeo Theatre). International credits: Dreams Reoccurring (Clubul CFR, Iasi, Romania and Nu Festival, Timisoara, Romania),Break (Dublin Gay Theatre Festival). Regional: Murray Mednick’s Heads (Omaha Magic Theatre),The Strangest Kind of Romance (2009 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival, with national tour). Notable assistant credits: Stage Directors & Choreographers Society 50th Anniversary Gala (Assistant to SDC Board President Karen Azenberg), Three Sisters (La MaMa ETC, dir. Richard Schechner),Rosencrantz si Guildenstern sunt Morti (Teatru National Vasile Alecsandri, Iasi, Romania, dir. Ovidiu Lazar). He has served as Artistic Director of NeoNeo Theatre Company and Literary Manager for Access Theater, and is conceiver of White City, a new musical with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend of The Who, currently in development.Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws has choreography by Liz Piccoli (Erotic BroadwayCrazy Sexy Disco) and original music by Trystan Trazon (Here Come the Alligators, The Animal Cracker Box,  EDIT (Kafkafest @ Columbia University)).

The scenic design for Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws is by Jonathan Collins (GreenwoodAwesome Allie, associate set designer for Lysistrata Jones  and Everyday Rapture); costume design is by Karl Ruckdeschel (Vital Theatre’s The Country Wife, associate costume designer on Rock of Agesand Avenue Q); lighting design is by Yuriy Nayer (The Mire, Colored People’s Time, assistant designer on The Shaggs  and The Night Watcher).

The stage manager is Allison Carroll; dramaturg is Thomas Keith; assistant director is Jonathan Chang; production consultant is Adam Weinstock.

La MaMa’s 50th season has been titled “Homecomings” as it will be comprised of more 40 productions by a wide array of artists whose work has been performed at La MaMa through the years, along with resident and international companies, and emerging artists who will make La MaMa their ‘home’ for the first time.

La MaMa is a remarkable arts institution with a world-wide reputation for producing cutting-edge work in theater, dance, performance art, and music. Founded in 1961 by theater pioneer and legend, Ellen Stewart, La MaMa has produced and presented more than 3,000 theatrical productions to date and is a vital part of the fabric of cultural life in New York City and around the world.

La MaMa provides a supportive home for artists and takes risks on unknown work. Artists such as Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, Blue Man Group, David and Amy Sedaris, -and others whose names you haven’t heard of yet – began their careers at La MaMa.

International artists introduced to America by La MaMa include Tadeusz Kantor, Andrei Serban, Kazuo Ohno and, more recently, the acclaimed Belarus Free Theatre.La MaMa has been honored with more than 30 OBIE Awards, dozens of Drama Desk and Bessie Awards, and, in 2006, Ellen Stewart was recognized with a special TONY Award for “Excellence in the Theatre.”

Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws plays Thursday through Saturday at 10pm, with a Sunday performance at 5:30pm, at The Club at La MaMa, 74A East Fourth Street at Second Avenue.  General admission tickets are $18; student/senior tickets are $13. For tickets and information, visitlamama.org or phone 212-475-7710.

News: I’m directing “Jeffrey Dahmer Live” at FringeNYC

Photo Credit: Dixie Sheridan

This August, I will be directing Avner Kam’s Jeffrey Dahmer Live at FringeNYC.

Jeffery Dahmer Live combines personal stories and hummable songs as it explores disturbingly mundane and human behind the extreme actions of the infamous title character. The setting: the jailed Dahmer, struggling to understand what has happened, creates a solo show with the aid of the prison drama club.

In 2011 it is 20 years since Dahmer’s “big reveal”, but he is still present, mentioned daily on the web; last year, Ke$ha, released “Cannibal” where she name-checked Dahmer, reaffirming his position as a cultural brand.

The show examines the case from various angles. The stories are factually correct, but the internal thought process and songs are creative extensions of the actual confessions. The character is placed in the cultural context of his time and prior, though the humor is, naturally, current.

Stories, songs and performance are by Avner Kam; he previously mashed his personality with those of Roy Rogers and Britney Spears. His previous solo show, The Singing Cowboy and His Invisible Backup Singers, played off-off Broadway, and the award-winning video for his signature song “I Want to Be like Roy Rogers (Yee Haw!)” played on MTV. Mr. Kam has honed his storytelling skills at The Moth where he won story slams. He is currently developing his next solo show: Helen Keller Live. Avner Kam is involved with FringeNYC behind the scenes. He is serving as their International Ambassador for the last 8 years, and his column, The Personal Shopper, humorously summarizes the yearly trends within the festival for their Propaganda publication.

For exact dates and venue for Jeffrey Dahmer Live, please consult FringeNYC.org or www.JeffreyDahmerLive.com.

For more information on my directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

News: Announcing the Full Cast of my production of Tennessee Williams’s “Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws”

As I reported earlier, Mink Stole and Everett Quinton are set to star in the production I’m directing of one of Tennessee Williams most wildly creative plays, Now The Cats With Jewelled Claws. Casting has been completed for the upcoming production, and a full creative team assembled.

Now the Cats will be premiering at the 6th Annual Provincetown Tennessee William Festival, September 22-25, 2011, before opening the 50th Anniversary Season at The Club at LaMaMa ETC, for a run from October 27-November 6, 2011.

The opening stage directions read “A luncheon table at the window of a restaurant. Outside the window, there is a deserted street, with the marquee of a cinema visible. The feature playing at the cinema is Defiance of Decency, which is followed by four stars.” Conversations in a restaurant between two socialite women friends, a roughed up pregnant waitress, two young gay hustlers with pink leather jackets emblazoned with “The Mystic Rose”, and a lecherous, prophetic restaurant manager. Apocalyptic, funny, musical, physical, wild, futuristic, shamanistic. Tennessee Williams at his experimental best.

Regina Bartkoff has been cast as Bea (opposite Mink Stole’s Madge), Joseph Keckler and Max Steele have been cast as the young hustlers, Erin Markey will be playing the waitress and Charles Schick has been cast as the Hunched Man. Music will be by Trystan Trazon. Set design will be by Jonathan Collins, lighting by Yuriy Nayer and costumes by Ryan J. Moller.

Regina Bartkoff is a painter and actress, and was born and raised in New York City, the daughter of a subway motorman.

Joseph Keckler is an interdisciplinary performer, actor, and classically trained singer. His original performance pieces and concerts have recently been presented at venues such as SXSW Music, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Stone, and Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, among others. His debut EP, “Featured Creatures” was released by Transeuropa in Italy last year. Joseph recently completed residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell Artist Colony, and his performance texts have been explored at Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Joseph has also had the privilege of appearing in numerous operas, new performances, and plays. In April he played a hallucination named The Boss’ Wife in Aaron Jafferis and Byron Au Yong’s music-theatre piece Stuck Elevator at the Sundance Theater Lab. Joseph has also been a member of composer John Moran’s theater company, last playing the part of Death in Saori’s Birthday. Other recent roles include the soldier Demetrius in Dan Fishback’s You Will Experience Silence and a cameo as Rolf, a weird balladeer, in Tina Satter’s Family. Joseph’s most recent play, Jobz, directed by Josh Hecht, premiered in May with soloNOVA at PS122. His previous full-length piece, Human Jukebox, directed by Elizabeth Gimbel, enjoyed successful runs at La MaMa ETC and Dublin Fringe in 2008-2009. This summer Joseph will appear in Kevin Malony’s staging of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke. Joseph’s forthcoming solo-opera-weirdo-experiment, A Voice and Nothing More, will premiere at Amsterdam’s Bellevue Theatre in September. Joseph is a member of Actor’s Equity Association.

Max Steele is a performer and writer. He has presented work at the New Museum, Deitch Projects, Dixon Place, Envoy Enterprises, PPOW Gallery, and the Queens Museum of Art. In addition to writing the psychedelic porno poetry zine Scorcher, his writing has been featured in Dossier Journal, Spank, Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art, East Village Boys and Birdsong. He performed in Dan Fishback’s You Will Experience Silence at Dixon Place in 2008, and played Becky on the Logo sitcom “Jeffery and Cole Casserole”.

Erin Markey is a Brooklyn-based writer/performer. She recently starred in the NYC premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Green Eyes at the Hudson Hotel. She is a series regular on LOGO’s Jeffery and Cole Casserole TV show. Her solo musical, Puppy Love: A Stripper’s Tail played and extended at PS 122. She is a company member of Half Straddle and her work in FAMILY was heralded as “the scariest performance of the year” in 2009 by Time Out NY. As a playwright, she was invited to the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and is currently developing her newest work, The Dardy Family Home Movies by Stephen Sondheim by Erin Markey, to premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Kinotek Series in the Fall of 2011. As a cabaret and performance artist, she regularly presents work at Our Hit Parade with Kenny Mellman, Bridget Everett and Neal Medlyn at Joe’s Pub (The Public).

Charles Schick is a painter and actor, and was born in Chicago, the son of a U.S. Civil Service employee.

For more about my directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

News: Mink Stole and Everett Quinton to star in my production of wild Tennessee Williams play

I am very excited to announce that the production I will be directing this fall one of Tennessee Williams most wildly creative plays, Now The Cats With Jewelled Claws, will star John Waters film phenomenon Mink Stole, together with Everett Quinton, a core member of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company. The production will be premiering at the 6th Annual Provincetown Tennessee William Festival, September 22-25, 2011, before opening the 50th Anniversary Season at The Club at LaMaMa ETC, for a run from October 27-November 13, 2011.

The opening stage directions read “A luncheon table at the window of a restaurant. Outside the window, there is a deserted street, with the marquee of a cinema visible. The feature playing at the cinema is Defiance of Decency, which is followed by four stars.” Conversations in a restaurant between two socialite women friends, a roughed up pregnant waitress, two young gay hustlers with pink leather jackets emblazoned with “The Mystic Rose”, and a lecherous, prophetic restaurant manager. Apocalyptic, funny, musical, physical, wild, futuristic, shamanistic. Tennessee Williams at his experimental best.

Mink Stole’s career as an actor began nearly 45 years ago, when she was introduced to John Waters in Provincetown in the summer of 1966. She has since appeared in 13 films directed by Mr. Waters, creating such roles as Connie Marble in “Pink Flamingos,” Taffy Davenport in “Female Trouble,” and Dottie Hinkle in “Serial Mom.” Among her non-John Waters roles, she has played Natasha Lyonne’s mom in Jamie Babbit’s “But I’m a Cheerleader,” and a bible-addled death row inmate in Steve Balderson’s “Stuck!” In last year’s “All About Evil,” directed by Joshua Grannell, she was Evelyn, the too-talkative librarian, and this year she continued her recurring role as Aunt Helen in installments Four and Five of the popular Eating Out film series by Q. Alan Brocka. On stage, Mink was lucky to have the chance to work on two shows with the late, great Charles Ludlam, Love’s Tangled Web, and Secret Lives of the Sexists. She worked with the legendary Cockettes in the early 1970s. More recently, she appeared as Autolycus in the L.A. Women’s Shakespeare Company’s production of The Winter’s Tale, which role led her to her new passion, music. With her Wonderful Band (West Coast and East Coast editions) for the last few years she has been performing cabaret act, “Do Re MiNK,” and her Christmas show. She is currently working on her first CD.

Everett Quinton has recently appeared in The Witch of Edmonton at Red Bull Theater, as Florence Wexler in Devil Boys from Beyond at New World Stages, as Dr. Caius in The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., and as Jacob Marley in The McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. Everett is also a member of Cleveland State University’s Summer Stages where he appeared as Madam Rosepettle in O Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad. Everett previously appeared at Red Bull Theater in Women Beware Women (2008 Callaway Award, Best Actor). Everett was a member of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company and served as its Artistic Director from 1987-1997. He has appeared in Charles Ludlam’s Medea, The Secret Lives of the Sexists, Salammbo, Galas, The Artificial Jungle and the original production of The Mystery of Irma Vep (Obie and Drama Desk Award). He was also seen in Georg Osterman’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Brother Truckers (Bessie Award); Richard and Michael Simon’s Murder at Minsing Manor (Drama League Award); as well as in his own plays: Carmen, Linda, Movieland, A Tale of Two Cities (Obie Award), and Call Me Sarah Bernhardt. Everett has directed revivals of Charles Ludlam’s Big Hotel, Camille, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet and How to Write a Play. He also directed Brother Truckers (in New York, London and as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Carmen, Sebastian Stewart’s Under the Kerosene Moon, as well as The Beaux Stratagem at the Yale Rep and Treasure Island at the Omaha Theatre for Young People. Film and TV credits include “Natural Born Killers,” “Big Business,” “Deadly Illusion,” “Forever Lulu,” “Miami Vice” and “Law & Order.”

For tickets to the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival, click here.

For more about my directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

Tony Picks 2011

 

Every year, my boyfriend and I look over the Tony nominees and pick our favorites. Not who we think will win, mind you, but whom we would choose if we were Tony voters. Here is a list of whom we would like to win, with a handful of folks we feel were, in Julie Andrews’s timeless phrase, “egregiously overlooked”. Enjoy.

Best Play

Good People

Jerusalem

The Motherfucker with the Hat

War Horse

Our Pick: Good People. Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire delivers his best work to date, taking us to Southie, the hardscrabble Boston neighborhood where he grew up. He is very much writing what he knows, more directly than he ever has before, with powerful results.

Best Musical

The Book of Mormon

Catch Me If You Can

The Scottsboro Boys

Sister Act

Our Pick: The Book of Mormon. One of the funniest, most tuneful shows to open on Broadway in quite some time. That’s largely because The Book of Mormon, no matter how you look at it, is classic musical comedy fun. Scottsboro was an admirable, ambitious work, but didn’t have Mormon‘s tunes or wit.

Best Book of a Musical

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Alex Timbers

The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone

The Scottsboro Boys, David Thompson

Sister Act, Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane

Our Pick: The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. There are a few times that a joke in Mormon can feel forced, but fortunately they’re really set ups for better comic payoffs later on. Raucous comedy has rarely been so lovingly crafted.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

The Book of Mormon, Music & Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone

The Scottsboro Boys, Music & Lyrics: John Kander and Fred Ebb

Sister Act, Music: Alan Menken, Lyrics: Glenn Slater

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek

Our Pick: The Book of Mormon, Music & Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. It was clearly constructed with Rodgers and Hammerstein in mind as its musical and dramatic model, while satirizing classic and current musical comedy, even while it profits from their best lessons.

Best Revival of a Play

Arcadia

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Merchant of Venice

The Normal Heart

Our Pick: The Importance of Being Earnest. Director Brian Bedford, who also plays colorful gentry gorgon Lady Bracknell in this bright, vigorous production, has successfully captured the unbridled joy with which Oscar Wilde suffused every line. Bedford has plainly encouraged his castmates to make a full meal of this classic comic feast.

Best Revival of a Musical

Anything Goes

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Our Pick: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Director/choreographer Rob Ashford gets a long way with hyper-kinetic frugging and monkeying. A thoroughly entertaining revival that has the size and sizzle you expect from a Broadway musical.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Brian Bedford, The Importance of Being Earnest

Bobby Cannavale, The Motherfucker with the Hat

Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart

Al Pacino, The Merchant of Venice

Mark Rylance, Jerusalem

Our Pick: Mark Rylance, Jerusalem. Rylance proves once again that he is one of the English-speaking world’s greatest actors, this time in a role that, while wildly funny, goes way beyond comedy.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday

Frances McDormand, Good People

Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice

Vanessa Redgrave, Driving Miss Daisy

Hannah Yelland, Brief Encounter

Our Pick: Frances McDormand, Good People. A knockout female lead role performed by one of the finest American actress of our time. McDormand is incandescent, with exciting rock ’n’ roll energy to boot.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can

Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon

Joshua Henry, The Scottsboro Boys

Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon

Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Our Pick: Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon. Butz was stiff competition, but Gad’s deliciously varied comic effects and eccentric charm put him over the top (literally) for us. Egregiously overlooked: Daniel Radcliffe, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Probably wouldn’t vote for him above the others, but the lad did deserve a nod for his efforts.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Sutton Foster, Anything Goes

Beth Leavel, Baby It’s You!

Patina Miller, Sister Act

Donna Murphy, The People in the Picture

Our Pick: Beth Leavel, Baby It’s You! Housewife turned record company exec Florence Greenberg is magnetically channelled by Beth Leavel. Leavel fills her portrayal of Greenberg with a profound soulfulness, and sings and dances with a fiery vigor that keep the whole thing moving.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Mackenzie Crook, Jerusalem

Billy Crudup, Arcadia

John Benjamin Hickey, The Normal Heart

Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Yul Vázquez, The Motherfucker with the Hat

Our Pick: Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Moayed played disillusioned Baghdad gardener Musa with great sensitivity and detail – a singularly striking and emotional performance.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Ellen Barkin, The Normal Heart

Edie Falco, The House of Blue Leaves

Judith Light, Lombardi

Joanna Lumley, La Bête

Elizabeth Rodriguez, The Motherfucker with the Hat

Our Pick: Judith Light, Lombardi. Light was particularly marvelous as a woman who isn’t thrilled with being a “sports widow” but nonetheless loves her man enough to realize that his happiness depends on the game and not on her.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys

Adam Godley, Anything Goes

John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Forrest McClendon, The Scottsboro Boys

Rory O’Malley, The Book of Mormon

Our Pick: Adam Godley, Anything Goes. A standout performance, and a bit of a stealth performance: he tools along gracefully until his big Act II number “The Gypsy In Me” when – Bam! Pow! – he totally nails it, delivering the song and dance with real fire, knocking all of the song’s comedy right out of the ballpark.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Tammy Blanchard, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Victoria Clark, Sister Act

Nikki M. James, The Book of Mormon

Patti LuPone, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Our Pick: Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Laura Benanti stole every scene she was in as ditzy model Candela.

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Todd Rosenthal, The Motherfucker with the Hat

Rae Smith, War Horse

Ultz, Jerusalem

Mark Wendland, The Merchant of Venice

Our Pick: Ultz, Jerusalem. Ultz’s very impressive set laid out a pastoral but chaotic scene in fastidious detail, evoking both the gutsiness of the play’s trailer-dwelling hero and the grand mysteries of nature (and even supernature).

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Beowulf Boritt, The Scottsboro Boys

Derek McLane, Anything Goes

Scott Pask, The Book of Mormon

Donyale Werle, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Our Pick: Donyale Werle, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Werle created an audience-surrounding environment, which successfully blended early 19th Century hunting lodge realness with witty 21st Century kitsch. Egregiously overlooked: Brian Thomson, Priscilla Queen of the Dessert. Garish, yes, but gorgeous, too. Flamboyant, fabulous, an outpouring of pure joy that I liked better than Werle’s work.

Best Costume Design of a Play

Jess Goldstein, The Merchant of Venice

Desmond Heeley, The Importance of Being Earnest

Mark Thompson, La Bête

Catherine Zuber, Born Yesterday

Our Pick: Desmond Heeley, The Importance of Being Earnest. Glamorous, giddy and glittery, Heeley’s excellent creations go elegantly, entertainingly over-the-top; his costumes for Lady Bracknell in particular are easily among the best of the year.

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardiner, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Martin Pakledinaz, Anything Goes

Ann Roth, The Book of Mormon

Catherine Zuber, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Our Pick: Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardiner, Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Goes even further over the top than Heeley’s Earnest designs (this is a drag queen musical, after all) and are even more wonderfully witty and complex than their own Oscar-winning designs for the Priscilla film.

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Paule Constable, War Horse

David Lander, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Kenneth Posner, The Merchant of Venice

Mimi Jordan Sherin, Jerusalem

Our Pick: David Lander, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Lander’s rich and profound yet delicate lighting is perhaps the most successfully evocative thing about this production, practically bringing us the smells and flavors of wartime Baghdad.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Ken Billington, The Scottsboro Boys

Howell Binkley, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Peter Kaczorowski, Anything Goes

Brian MacDevitt, The Book of Mormon

Our Pick: Howell Binkley, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Rarely have pastels been so vibrant! Binkley’s swirling lighting literally caresses the How to Succeed set. Egregiously overlooked: Nick Schlieper, Priscilla Queen of the Desert. See scenic design above. Same story.

Best Sound Design of a Play

Acme Sound Partners & Cricket S. Myers, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Simon Baker, Brief Encounter

Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Jerusalem

Christopher Shutt, War Horse

Our Pick: Simon Baker, Brief Encounter. Baker is literally the wind beneath this production’s wings, giving support to the production’s many musical interludes, as well as creating emotional and symbolic soundscapes all his own.

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Peter Hylenski, The Scottsboro Boys

Steve Canyon Kennedy, Catch Me If You Can

Brian Ronan, Anything Goes

Brian Ronan, The Book of Mormon

Our Pick: Brian Ronan, The Book of Mormon. Always a difficult category to judge, but one that comes down to this – can you hear the lyrics and does the music sound full? Ronan suceeds loud and clear on both counts.

Best Direction of a Play

Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, War Horse

Joel Grey & George C. Wolfe, The Normal Heart

Anna D. Shapiro, The Motherfucker with the Hat

Daniel Sullivan, The Merchant of Venice

Our Pick: Anna D. Shapiro, The Motherfucker with the Hat. As always, Shapiro delivers a production that is very sharp and well-calibrated while also being profoundly human and emotional. Egregiously overlooked: Brian Bedford, The Importance of Being Earnest. He didn’t just play Lady Bracknell and let the chips fall where they may. This production is the best Earnest in a long time because Bedford imparted the true spirit of Wilde to his cast with intelligence, joy and vigor. I’d pick him over Shapiro, if only by a bit.

Best Direction of a Musical

Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes

Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon

Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

Our Pick: Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys. Stro is doing some of her best work ever here, using minimal means to create a constantly compelling theatricality. Sometimes her direction and choreography do diametrically opposite things at the same time, to truly stunning effect.

Best Choreography

Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes

Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon

Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

Our Pick: Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys. See above. Egregiously overlooked: Jerry Mitchell, Catch Me if you Can. Precise, even tricky high-energy steps, that tell the story and reveal character very effectively. I’d still probably give the prize to Stro, but Jerry truly deserved a nod.

Best Orchestrations

Doug Besterman, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Larry Hochman, The Scottsboro Boys

Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus, The Book of Mormon

Marc Shaiman & Larry Blank, Catch Me If You Can

Our Pick: Larry Hochman, The Scottsboro Boys. The show satirizes minstrelsy’s worst tendencies while also allowing Kander and Ebb to write an energetic, engaging score of minstrel-style songs. Hochman unflinchingly captured all the wonderful things that made this music so abidingly influential.

Gay theatre pioneer Doric Wilson passes at 72

Gay theatre pioneer, and a dearly beloved friend of mine, Doric Wilson passed away in his sleep on the evening of May 7, 2011.

In 1961 his comedy And He Made A Her opened at Greenwich Village’s legendary Caffe Cino, and he became one of the Caffe’s first resident playwrights. The success of his four Cino Plays helped, in the words of playwright Robert Patrick – another pioneer in the gay theatre movement – to “establish the Cino as a venue for new plays, and materially contributed to the then-emerging concept of Off-Off-Broadway.”

Also at the Cino in 1961 his Now She Dances! was the first American play to deal positively with gay people, a founding moment in the gay theatre movement. He was one of the first playwrights invited to join the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright’s Unit and later became a founding member of Circle Repertory Company.

Doric was also a notable gay activist. He participated in the Stonewall riots (an experience commemorated in his 1982 masterpiece Street Theater), and was active in the Gay Activist Alliance, an early gay liberation organization. In 2004, Doric was one of the Grand Marshals of the 35th Anniversary New York City Pride Day Parade. He is featured in the documentary film, “Stonewall Uprising” (2010), recently aired on PBS.

In 1974, Doric (with Billy Blackwell, Peter del Valle and John McSpadden) formed TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), the first professional theatre company to deal openly and honestly with the gay experience. In June 2001, Wilson, and directors Mark Finley and Barry Childs resurrected the company as TOSOS II (of which I am a member). The return of TOSOS has been met with critical acclaim and awards and has achieved a well-earned reputation for the talent and professionalism of its company.

Of Doric, Edward Albee has said, “If you look at Doric Wilson’s work of the last fifty years, you will see that … there’s one word that he’s never heard, and this is ‘compromise.’ Doric has always told it as it is. He has never believed in playing it safe and the word ‘sugar-coating’ is not in his vocabulary either. His theater is tough, funny and right on target. No pussyfooting for Doric: he doesn’t write gay theater; he writes queer theater.”

Doric was one of a kind, a great spirit, and will be sorely, sorely missed.

“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum

Before last night’s gala, I got a sneak peek at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition, and it is definitely one to see. It is very theatrical, like McQueen’s designs, with lots of stage-like backgrounds, “reveals” and moody, constantly changing music.

This spring 2011 Costume Institute exhibition at The Met is on view May 4 through July 31. The exhibition celebrates the late Mr. McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Mr. McQueen challenged and expanded our understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity.

“Alexander McQueen was best known for his astonishing and extravagant runway presentations, which were given dramatic scenarios and narrative structures that suggested avant-garde installation and performance art,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator, The Costume Institute. “His fashions were an outlet for his emotions, an expression of the deepest, often darkest, aspects of his imagination. He was a true romantic in the Byronic sense of the word – he channeled the sublime.”

Galleries showcase recurring themes and concepts in McQueen’s work. “The Romantic Mind” examines his technical ingenuity, which combined the precision of tailoring and patternmaking with the spontaneity of draping and dressmaking. “Romantic Gothic” highlights McQueen’s historicism, particularly his engagement with the Victorian Gothic, and dichotomies such as life and death. “Romantic Nationalism” looks at McQueen’s patriotic impulses, including his reflections on his Scottish heritage and his fascination with British history. “Romantic Exoticism” explores the influence of other cultures on the designer’s imagination, especially China and Japan. “Romantic Primitivism” captures McQueen’s engagement with the ideal of the “noble savage,” while “Romantic Naturalism” considers his enduring interest in raw materials and forms from nature.

Of particular interest is a “Cabinet of Curiosities” that includes various atavistic and fetishized accessories produced in collaboration with the milliners Dai Rees and Philip Treacy, and the jewelers Shaun Leane, Erik Halley, and Sarah Harmarnee. The Cabinet also displays video highlights from ten of McQueen’s renowned runway presentations, including Joan (autumn/winter 1998–99), What a Merry-Go-Round (autumn/winter 2001–02), and They Shoot Horses Don’t They? (spring/summer 2004).

The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator, with the support of Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, both of the Met’s Costume Institute. Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett, the production designers for Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows, serve as the exhibition’s creative director and production designer, respectively. All head treatments and masks are designed by Guido. The graphic design of the exhibition is by Sue Koch of the Museum’s Design Department.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

News: I am directing “Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws” by Tennessee Williams

I am very excited to announce that this fall I will be directing one of Tennessee Williams most wildly creative plays, Now The Cats With Jewelled Claws. The production will be premiering at the 6th Annual Provincetown Tennessee William Festival, September 22-25, 2011, before opening the 50th Anniversary Season at The Club at LaMaMa ETC, for a run from October 27-November 6, 2011.

The opening stage directions read “A luncheon table at the window of a restaurant. Outside the window, there is a deserted street, with the marquee of a cinema visible. The feature playing at the cinema is Defiance of Decency, which is followed by four stars.” Conversations in a restaurant between two socialite women friends, a roughed up pregnant waitress, two young gay hustlers with pink leather jackets emblazoned with “The Mystic Rose”, and a lecherous, prophetic restaurant manager. Apocalyptic, funny, musical, physical, wild, futuristic, shamanistic.

I hope to have some exciting casting announcements soon.

Archive Feature: 2007 Broadway Beauty Pageant

From May 2007:

The winner of the first annual Mr. Broadway pageant held last Monday, April 30th, Mr. “Mamma Mia” Frankie James Grande, is living proof that saying “she ain’t right” doesn’t preclude sexiness – crazy can be crazy hot! Grande went way out on a limb with his “talent” performance, singing “You’re the One that I Want” as Gollum from “Lord of the Rings.”

He went even further, mixing in the idea that Gollum was a contestant on the recent “Grease” casting show bearing that song’s name. It certainly didn’t hurt that ultra-athletic back flips were part of his act, or that he sang in a loincloth, or that his swimsuit was the skimpiest of the lot (combined with body oil, which host Tovah Feldshuh praised as “attention to detail”).

Judge Seth Rudetsky (a Broadway musician also known for his one-man show “Rhapsody in Seth”, and “Broadway Chatterbox” his weekly live talk show at Don’t Tell Mama) revealed that “Nancy Opel and I did a show together on Saturday and we looked at each other and said ‘This pageant on Monday could really be awful.’ We’ll do it for the terrific organization it benefits –the Ali Forney Center (AFC) which provides shelter for homeless LGBT youth in New York City – but we were both sort of dreading it.”

“But,” Rudetsky enthuses, “it was so well done! Amazing, so well produced, the talent level was incredible, I thought. Tovah Feldshuh, the host, was hilarious, doing her Borscht Belt shtick, which the audience just ate up. I totally want to do it again! I mean I’d love to be in it but I’d have to do a 40 pound weight loss and drop 20 years in age. I was so impressed with the acts, they could have just come out and sang their audition songs, but they were so well thought out and brave.”

Each of the contestants went head to head in talent, interview and swimsuit competitions in front of judges who are celebrities on the Great White Way – or nearby gay bars — but ultimately, the final vote was left in the audience’s hands. The judges were Scott Nevins, Opel and Rudetsky.

Grande wasn’t the only candidate to rely on comedy: Mr. “Mary Poppins” Kevin Yee gave an interpretation of Tom Jones’s “Sex Bomb” that playfully parodied boy-band choreography and costuming (Yee was part of boy-band Youth Asylum when he was a teenager).

Mr. “Curtains” Ward Billeisen earned points for dressing elegantly for his talent, but lost points for singing the melodically easy “Moondance.” His swimsuit featured “curtains” that rose to reveal his bare butt, which the judges found provocative for its combination of cleverness and sexiness.

Mr. “Wicked” Kenway Kua’s talent was a dance that also involved a serious story about finding self-esteem and some artful choreography. Full disclosure: Kua got my vote because the choreography was his own, and incorporated technically difficult moves and good storytelling – and, yes, a gradual shedding of costume revealing his svelte physique.

Mr. “A Chorus Line” Paul McGill both hacked off and challenged the judges with an early revelation that he was only 19, born in 1987. He also caused a stir in the swimsuit competition with a package that was either quite well-hung or artfully-stuffed. “It was crazy,” said Rudetsky. “Did he wrap his dick four times over? I don’t understand how it can look like that.” In the interview section he did a very hard to-the-ground split. Maybe that’s why he was first runner up to Grande — though it might also be because he very nearly nailed the Michael Bennett‘s choreography for “Music and the Mirror,” a bravura dance number from “Line” in heels no less, which he chose for his talent.

Mr. “Hairspray,” Arbinder Robinson is clearly a singer before everything else, staking everything on his interpretation of “Georgia on My Mind” which he delivered with chops that more closely resembled real soul than “American Idol” screaming. He copped out on the swimsuit portion of the evening, but was candid and winning in the interview, speaking about his upbringing and theatrical career.

Mr. “Tarzan” Nick Sanchez got major technical points for attempting to set a world record for toe touches (high jumps with hands extended to meet the feet) – he made it to 50. He charmed the judges, especially Nevins, in the interview, and caused a stir by swallowing an entire bottle of Corona during his swimsuit walk.

On the subject of the Center’s financial need AFC Executive Director Carl Siciliano comments that “We want only the best for the kids in our program. The services they can get from the government are minimal. It’s like getting a baloney sandwich when they need and deserve a four-course meal. At the Ali Forney Center, we want to make sure they get the four-course meal.”

Ali Forney was a homeless queer teen who was forced to live on the streets of New York during the 1990s. Ali was dedicated to the safety of other homeless queer youth; he was a committed HIV prevention worker, and aggressively advocated that the NYPD investigate a series of murders of the homeless queer youth he had befriended. In December of 1997, Ali was murdered on the streets. His tragic death called attention to the atrocious conditions for homeless queer youth in New York. Ali’s murderer has never been identified. According to AFC statistics, as LGBT teens come out of the closet, 25% are rejected by their families, 11.5% of gay and lesbian youth report being physically attacked by family members and 42% of homeless youth self-identify as gay or lesbian.

AFC was started in June 2002 in response to the lack of safe shelter for LGBT youth in New York City. They are committed to providing LGBT youth with safe, dignified, nurturing environments where their needs can be met and where they can begin to put their lives back together. AFC has quickly become the nation’s largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. AFC currently provides help for 2,000 persons a year with services including three emergency housing sites, three transitional housing sites, a network of resources in New York City, and a day center that offers clinical and support services.

While the total amount raised had not been tallied at press time, the audience was given the opportunity after the show to make an additional donation to the Ali Forney Center, resulting in over $2000 in cash raised at the door alone.