[Stage] Kiss & Tell with Bart DeLorenzo

Posted by Kristina Leach

Chances are, if you are a theatre enthusiast living in Los Angeles, you’ve seen a play directed by Bart De Lorenzo. A Geffen alum, Bart directed Joan River’s: A Work in Progress by A Life in Progress and Shipwrecked! An Entertainment by Donald Margulies in 2008. Then, in 2011, he directed Margulies’ Coney Island Christmas. Now, he is at the helm of Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl. Right before tech week started, I had the distinct honor of chatting with him. We got straight to the heart of the “new” Wild West, kissing onstage and what it is to be an artist in LA.

Why Stage Kiss? I saw the play in New York at The New Group and it was one of those rare experiences where you don’t want the play to end. I enjoyed the world, the mindscape. Sarah was there and she said “Why don’t you do this in LA?” I pitched the play to the Geffen and here we are.

bart & Donald

Donald Margulies (left) and Bart DeLorenzo working on Coney Island Christmas in 2011.

In your opinion, how does LA measure up as a theatrical town? Between theatre, TV and film it seems everyone in LA is in motion. There are so many artistic opportunities and so many places to express oneself.  The people who can move freely between those mediums are able to stay in the moment and I think that’s why there seems to be a big explosion of artists in LA right now. I think It’s directly related to this Golden Age of Television that we’re experiencing. It’s truly, the Wild West out there. The days of big corporations deciding what people want is coming to an end and TV is going after those truly imaginative people with unique voices – those who write for the theatre. They bring in theatre people to reimagine TV and it’s working. Playwrights are out here, working. And that benefits us because they still write plays.

Shipwrecked

Michael Daniel Cassady and Gregory Itzin in 2008’s Shipwrecked! (Photo: Michael Lamont)

frank dracula

Frank Langella (far right) is pictured here in Dracula, circa 1980. Just imagine: young Bart DeLorenzo in the last row of the balcony.

What about you? Want to make the jump to TV or Film? I grew up in Massachusetts, watching the 4 o’clock Movie. I learned about directing from Alfred Hitchcock – ironically, so much of Stage Kiss is done in that 1930s style of Clark Gable or Cary Grant. But, honestly, it’s taken me so long to perfect what I’m doing as a theatre director. You are always trying something new and every project is an adventure in history or cultural growth. One of the reasons I love the theatre is that I am able to go on many adventures a year whereas, a film could take 3 years to make. That said, I would love to hone new skills and learn the intricacies of creating film or television.

How did you find theatre? I learned to love the theatre by doing it. As a kid, I acted but when I got older I started designing sets. The first professional production I ever saw was Dracula, starring Frank Langella, at the Wilbur Theater in Boston. I sat in the last row of the balcony. After that, it was the tour of Bob Fosse’s Chicago. I would love to see that again! Living in Massachusetts, I was a bit of an exotic creature. I thought I was in a movie. I knew I had to leave and that I was made for other things. My absolute favorite thing is working on a play. I love rehearsing. I love figuring a play out. Tomorrow, we start tech and I can’t wait.

Do you remember the first on stage kiss you ever directed?  What a great question! Yes, I remember it was a creepy incestuous kiss in Orestes between Electra and Orestes. I remember walking back to the dorms with the actress playing Electra and her being surprised that the actor playing Orestes was such a good kisser. But I also remember my first on stage kiss as an actor. I was playing the son of an overseer in the play The First Breeze of Summer by Leslie Lee and there was a flashback scene where I was having an affair with one of the serving girls. I had to do the scene shirtless, which terrified me far more than the kiss. But as I recall – we WENT for it.

You’ve worked on other plays by Sarah Ruhl. Which ones? Two years ago, I did Passion Play with the Evidence Room at the Odyssey Theatre. In 2008, I directed Dead Man’s Cell Phone at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.

Passion Play Evidence Room

Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play with the Evidence Room at the Odyssey, directed by Bart DeLorenzo in 2014. (Photo: Enci)

What’s next? In May, I’m directing Wink by Jen Silverman for the Pacific Playwrights festival at South Coast Repertory.  And in the Fall, I’m directing M. Butterfly at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Anything on the Bucket List? I love [playwrights] Will Eno and Annie Baker. I’d love to do any of Euripides plays or Chekov’s Three Sisters.

Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Bart DeLorenzo is onstage now. It stars Tim Bagley, Melody Butiu, Stephen Caffrey, Barry Del Sherman, Glenne Headly, Emily James & Matthew Scott Montgomery.

Click here for tickets: http://www.geffenplayhouse.org/stage-kiss

For more information about Bart De Lorenzo, visit his website: http://www.bartdelorenzo.com/

Kimberly Senior: Fantastic Host

Posted by Kristina Leach

For director, Kimberly Senior, culture has always been a way of life. So, it came as no surprise, when she chose directing for the stage as her life’s work. I was able to chat with Kimberly about theatre and the art of directing a couple of days after the opening night of Sex With Strangers. Read on.

How did you discover theatre? I grew up in New York and New Jersey and my parents took me to see theatre starting at a young age. As a child, sitting in the audience, it was exciting to me that theatre became not only an experience of watching – it transformed into a ritual of community and storytelling.  It’s risky to be an audience member. There is a deep responsibility to laugh or to be vulnerable as an audience member – and I found that element exciting.

audience

“It’s risky to be an audience member.”

Why directing? For me, being the director is not being “the boss”. I’ve always viewed being the director to being a fantastic host. It is the director’s job to create the right environment for the artists to thrive. By taking something one dimensional and turning it into something with three dimensions, frankly, makes directing the coolest job in the world.

SWS kiss

Sex With Strangers cast members Stephen Louis Grush and Rebecca Pidgeon. Photo: Michael Lamont

What drew you to Sex With Strangers? I grew up in the Chicago theatre community with Laura Eason. I’ve been involved with the project since 2009 when it was produced during Steppenwolf’s First Look Festival. I met Randy Arney there when I was 21 years old so, for me, Sex With Strangers is having a sort of homecoming by being here at the Geffen. I couldn’t wait to get started on the play again and I consider it a love letter to Laura.

 

As a woman in the field of directing, the work can be challenging – particularly when getting hired. Are you finding that the climate, at least in the theatre, is changing? I do see the climate changing – slowly. In my opinion, the answer is patience, modeling and mentorship. I tried for years to get an audience with one particular Artistic Director in Chicago. I finally cornered him and said “Why don’t you hire women at your theatre?” And you know what? He came to see all the shows I directed after that, he advised me and finally – I got a job directing at his theatre.  The people coming up through the ranks tend to mentored by the same type of people, but that is changing.  And I am so proud to say that my assistant director is now directing on the mainstage of that same theatre. It takes time, but it is happening.

Kimberly in rehearsal

Kimberly Senior, with Assistant Director Kristen Osborn talking to the cast and crew of Sex With Strangers during the first read-thru. Photo: Karen Gutierrez

Ever feel pulled to TV or film? Definitely, but not in a hired gun capacity. I’d love to be a part of a story expanding over time. There is an intimacy with the tempo of the lens.

Got a second favorite job to directing? Being a mom. In the theatre you’re always striving to be present. As a parent, there is no other way to be. Perspective makes everything tough, but being with them is the most important thing to me. I make my work for them. I love listening to them play piano or just talking to my daughter. it’s exciting to watch them become their own people.

What’s next? Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar will be at the Mark Taper Forum in June 2016. This will be it’s seventh production. I’m excited to dive back in.

This May, The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord will open at Northlight Theatre in Illinois (our readers may remember Discord here at the Geffen Playhouse from the 14/15 season) with a new cast.

disgraced

Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Kimberly Senior (New York Production Jan 2015) Photo: Sara Krulwich/NY Times

Any playwright or project you’d like to direct in the future?  Someday I’d love to work with playwright Thomas Bradshaw. And as for productions, I’d love to do a production of Carousel or La Ronde.

For more information about Kimberly Senior’s work, visit her website: http://www.kimberlysenior.net/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veterans Share Stories, Speak Truth

Posted by Kristina Leach

Mondays are typically dark here at the Geffen – a night off for actors and crew having just completed a five-show weekend.

On Monday, December 7, however, the Gil Cates Theater was ablaze with storytelling. The Geffen Playhouse Education & Community Engagement’s Veterans Writing & Performance Workshop took the stage for a performance – first of its kind at the theater.

Over the course of four months, local veterans of various backgrounds and branches met in the Geffen Playhouse Annex to write (and rewrite) their personal stories. At the helm was April Fitzsimmons, a teaching artist, veteran, playwright and staff writer on ABC Family’s Stitchers, who supported these soldiers in their success as master storytellers.

education vet

annex

Pre-show was simple: in the lobby, casually dressed patrons hummed along to the oldies playing over the speakers and the bar was open for business. The lobby began to fill up, the lights flickered – time to take our seats.

Lights up in the Cates. Fifteen soldiers out of uniform gathered center stage – “Army” “Coast Guard” “Navy” – were just a few of the words called out as they split down the middle, took their seats on either side of the empty stage and then, the stories took flight. A paramedic, an accountant, a mom-to-be (like ABOUT to be any second) and a pole-dancing instructor, just to name a few, all spoke their truth. But it’s not necessarily how you think. The fifteen participants told the truth about their own heroes – the people that shaped them – heroes talking heroes.

stage
Their stories ranged in detail from the blood soaked battle fields of Afghanistan, to the emotional battles here at home – all through the lens of their everyday heroes.

In all, the show was two hours in length but for this civilian, it felt like a flash.

One of the storytellers, Jason Fracaro (pictured below), said after the show:

lobby post show

“Up until this point I never considered myself a writer. However, with the help of our mentor (April Fitzsimmons), I learned that we all have stories within us to tell. What makes an audience connect to the stories we tell are the human qualities that we imbue the work with.”

To find out more about education and community engagement programs at the Geffen Playhouse, please email education@geffenplayhouseblog.org.

 

 

Vanessa and French Stewart: A Match Made in the Geffen Green Room

Posted by GeffenAuthor

Photo by Jeff Lorch Photography.

Photo by Jeff Lorch Photography.

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, the Geffen Playhouse wants to hear from you. Over the course of this season we will be chatting with artists, patrons and staff to hear about the plays that moved you, the memories that stick with you and what draws you back season to season. We encourage you to contact us at anniversarystories@geffenplayhouseblog.org.

For this installment we’re joined by Geffen Playhouse artists Vanessa & French Stewart.

In what ways has being a Geffen artist added value to your life?
Vanessa Stewart: Our show Louis and Keely: Live at the Sahara opened originally at Sacred Fools Theater. Gil Cates, Sr. helped us move it to the Geffen back then, and I’ve had a career ever since. As an artist, it was a dream to get a start here. It really validated me as both a writer and performer.
French Stewart: I’ve been fortunate to work in multiple capacities at the Geffen. Be it on stage, fundraisers, readings, Story Pirates for kids, or new play workshops. It’s an extremely warm and productive community. I’ve always walked away feeling the enrichment of building something: large, small, or just helpful.
Continue reading

It’s Our Birthday! Celebrating 20 Years of Geffen

Posted by GeffenAuthor

Photo by Vivian Frerichs

Photo by Vivian Frerichs

This past bright and sweltering Saturday, October 10, Geffen Playhouse hosted a 20th anniversary open house. Over 300 subscribers, supporters and friendly folks simply curious to find out what the Geffen is all about enjoyed breakfast goodies courtesy of Gelson’s Markets, mimosas and Hint waters as they mingled and goofed around with fun “thought bubble” signs.

Our new Executive Director Gil Cates, Jr. took the stage to talk about the Geffen and the work we do as a non-profit arts organization, and Artistic Director Randall Arney shared insight about the Geffen’s current season. TV/film/stage actress Merle Dandridge, a Geffen alumnus (By The Way, Meet Vera Stark; Atlanta),  capped the morning by telling stories about why she feels at home at the Geffen.

Check out the fun for yourself!
Continue reading

Review Roundup: “Outside Mullingar”

Posted by GeffenAuthor

Geffen Playhouse 1995

Brendan Fraser, Parker Posey, John Patrick Shanley, Martin Short, Elizabeth Perkins and director Lawrence Kasdan at the Geffen in 1995

Twenty years ago this fall, the Geffen Playhouse launched its inaugural season with John Patrick Shanley’s comedy Four Dogs and a Bone. It’s fitting, then, that Shanley’s latest play, Outside Mullingar, is part of the Geffen’s 20th anniversary season.

Outside Mullingar has been hailed as Pulitzer, Tony and Academy Award-winning playwright Shanley’s best work since the arresting Doubt. In the wry romantic comedy Outside Mullingar, family farms, feuds and fences have separated neighbors Rosemary and Anthony since childhood. But as the heather blooms in the Irish countryside, unexpected charms are unearthed — and it’s proven once again that love, early or late, always arrives on time.

Curious? Keep reading …
Continue reading

Guess Which Geffen Productions Were Nominated for 2015 Ovation Awards? (Hint: You Loved This One!)

Posted by GeffenAuthor

ovations-header3

We at the Geffen like to think we mount some of the best productions in L.A.’s diverse theater community — but we were taught not to toot our own horn (often). That’s why we get excited when other people notice and nominate us for honors such as the Ovation Awards.

Just what are the Ovation Awards? Here’s a quick primer: The Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theater awards in L.A. given for theatrical performance, production and design. How many people vote, and on how many productions? Per LA Stage Alliance, there were 203 total nominations for 73 productions presented by 45 companies this voting season. Then, the 250 Ovation voters — vetted individuals who work professionally in the theater industry — vote on the productions. (If you need a refresher on what “Ovation Recommended” means, check out our breakdown.)

So which productions from the Geffen’s 2014-2015 season were nominated?
Continue reading