PA Players releases video of ‘Matilda’ rehearsals

Town Crier Report

After the coronavirus pandemic forced Palo Alto Players to postpone its production of “Matilda, The Musical,” originally set to open late last month at the Lucie Stern Theatre, the company is giving patrons a taste of what they’re missing.

Palo Alto Players has released a video of dance rehearsals for “Matilda” filmed early in the process. To view the video, visit youtube.com and type “Matilda early rehearsals” in the search bar.

“These staging rehearsals are only two weeks into the process. Nothing was anywhere near completion,” director/choreographer Janie Scott said. “You’re seeing recordings made for the cast to capture what we had done so far and practice at home. You can see my assistant, Zendrex Llado, at the front of most of the clips. He was there as a guide for the performers. You can also see vocal director Cody Scott conducting vocals. Choreography and vocals come together in layers. Then we add different directions, lifts, levels and crosses that provide more action and visual interest.”

Initially scheduled to run through May 10, “Matilda” has been postponed indefinitely. Palo Alto Players is “hoping to work with the cast and creative team to find another time in the near future to mount the show,” managing director Elizabeth Santana said.

For more information on Palo Alto Players, visit paplayers.org.

A ‘Renaissance’ is underway

Renaissance
Chris Hardy/Special to the Town Crier
Smuin dancers Terez Dean Orr and Ben Needham-Wood perform Amy Seiwert’s “Renaissance,” offered for free streaming as part of Smuin’s Hump Day Ballets series through Friday.

Town Crier Report

Amy Seiwert’s “Renaissance” is the next installment of Smuin Contemporary Ballet’s Hump Day Ballets series, which each week offers free video streaming of a performance from the company’s archives.

Departing Smuin after 10 years as its choreographer in residence to lead Sacramento Ballet, master dancemaker Seiwert returned in April 2019 to help celebrate Smuin’s 25th anniversary season by unveiling “Renaissance.”

A world premiere set to the music of Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, “Renaissance” was inspired by a 385-mile protest wall formed by women in India on New Year’s Day 2019. Millions of women joined hands to form the wall in Kerala to create awareness of gender equality and to object to a religious ban that prevented women of childbearing age from entering one of the country’s sacred Hindu temples. Across the street, many of the men in their lives stood with them in solidarity.

“They stood with them, but not side by side,” Seiwert said. “I loved that show of support – that you can stand by without interfering in something that’s not yours.”

She added that “Renaissance” is intended to reflect this fight for equality which, from Seiwert’s perspective, is a communal one. The dancers take turns supporting each other – women lifting women, men sometimes observing and sometimes helping.

“What I have enjoyed exploring the most (with this work) is the strength and the joy of the community,” Seiwert said of her experience. “It’s that community aspect of ‘we’re creating this together.’ What I hope people walk away from it with is that sense of community and a sense of joy.”

“Renaissance” will be streamed today through Friday, accompanied by a video introduction by current Smuin dancers Terez Dean Orr, Tessa Barbour and Peter Kurta. Streaming instructions are available through Smuin’s email list (sign up at smuinballet.org), or via Smuin’s Facebook (facebook.com/SmuinBallet) and Instagram (instagram.com/smuinballet).

For more information, visit smuinballet.org.

Pear streaming ‘Slices’

Pear Slices
Courtesy of Pear Theatre
Pear Theatre’s annual short-play showcase has moved online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Pear Slices 2020” is available for streaming through at least mid-June. The cast takes on multiple roles across plays.

Town Crier Report

Reimagined to comply with the shelter-in-place orders, Pear Theatre’s 17th annual short-play showcase is now streaming online.

Directed by Troy Johnson and Betsy Kruse Craig, “Pear Slices 2020” is a collection of original, one-act plays from members of the Pear Playwrights
Guild.

Released last week, access to the password-protected video is available for a suggested donation of $10-$30. Patrons who already hold tickets to this year’s “Pear Slices” and those who donate more than $30 will also receive a virtual backstage pass that provides a behind-the-scenes collection of videos on the process of creating the annual production, along with bonus content.

“Pear Slices 2020” will be available online through at least mid-June, according to the company’s publicist, Stephanie Crowley.

“Pear Slices” veteran Barry Slater contributed two plays this year. “Beach Memories” is about a family that has lost its way and can only be rescued by a long-forgotten summer memory. “Sunday Morning” follows Isaac and Violet as they find a way to begin to heal each other amid national tragedies.

Megan Maugheri also has two plays in the showcase. Sparks fly when a middle-aged trick-or-treater knocks on the door of a conventional homeowner in “Glinda, the Middle-Aged Witch.” “The Bad Good Planet” centers on a street performer on the Vegas Strip who must complete a mission with potentially grave consequences for humanity.

Paul Braverman returns with two plays as well. The first is another installment in his noir-spoofing saga “Deuce Cooper: Goodbye, Tuesday Ruby.” The most famous ruby in the world has been stolen and only someone with courage and guile can get it back – but instead, Deuce Cooper takes the case. In his other play, “Deep State Blues,” an airplane lavatory becomes the perfect place to expose a vast conspiracy or become a part of it.

Bridgette Dutta Portman’s “Exposure” is a spoof on a classical trope. A king attempts to leave his infant nephew to die of exposure on a hillside, but a passing shepherd thwarts that plan.

Pear Playwrights Guild newcomer Peggy Powell contributes “Business Class,” focused on two people who unexpectedly reunite in an airport and are caught off-guard by what they discover about one another.

The cast, each playing multiple characters across plays, comprises Henry Alper, Damaris Divito, Becca Gilbert, Gary Giurbino, Bill C. Jones and Leslie Newport Wright. Kelly Weber Barraza serves as stage manager, Kevin Davies provides set and technical design, David Hobbs creates the sound design and Meghan Souther designs lighting.

To purchase online access, make a donation and for more information, call 254-1148 or visit thepear.org/season-18.

Ragazzi Boys Chorus seeks singers for fall

Town Crier Report

Ragazzi Boys Chorus invites boys who love to sing to apply now to join the chorus in the fall.
To prevent the spread of

COVID-19, the Peninsula-based chorus has canceled its May 30 free SingFest, a mini-camp that combines auditions with a morning of song. Instead, boys ages 7-18 can get introduced to Ragazzi virtually from their homes, meeting online one-on-one with a Ragazzi chorus director for some short singing games appropriate to their age level.

Sign-ups are also open for Ragazzi’s Music & Movement class for boys 5-7.

To make an appointment and for more information, visit ragazzi.org/join-us.

Pandemic prompts TheatreWorks to revamp upcoming season

Madhuri Shekar
Niyantha Shekar/Special to the Town Crier
The drama “Queen” – written by San Jose’s Madhuri Shekar, above – is slated to kick off TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2020-2021 season in October.

Town Crier Report

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley last week unveiled changes to its 2020-2021 season. Originally slated to begin in July, the company’s 51st season has been postponed until October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are all in this together and it will be our shared spirit that brings us through this challenging time,” founding artistic director Robert Kelley said in a statement. “We want to thank our patrons for all of the calls, emails of support, and donations over the last few weeks. They have meant a lot to all of us and we are grateful for your encouragement and well wishes.”
Tim Bond, replacing the retiring Kelley in June, added, “Thank you for believing in the importance of theater to provide a place to laugh, reflect and celebrate the human spirit. We will be ready to serve our community in October and invite you to our reimagined upcoming season.”

The season will include the regional premiere of a hit Broadway play, another musical by acclaimed performer Hershey Felder, the regional premiere of a Jane Austen musical by Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon, a high-stakes environmental drama, a timely Tony-winning musical, an onstage adaptation of a beloved holiday film and a personalized portrait of a century of American history.

TheatreWorks also announced it will begin the following season in July 2021 with a world premiere developed in its New Works Festival. This year’s New Works Festival, originally slated for Aug. 7-16, has been postponed to early 2021; exact dates have not yet been announced.

Tim Bond
Bond

Here’s a rundown of the upcoming season:

• “Queen,” Oct. 7 through Nov. 1 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. Written by San Jose native Madhuri Shekar, the environmental drama follows female doctoral candidates Sanam from India and Ariel from the United States, who are on the brink of publishing groundbreaking research about the rapid global honeybee demise. When Sanam discovers that their numbers don’t quite add up, she grapples with a moral dilemma: publish the paper and face humiliation if the truth is discovered, or stand by her scientific principles, ceding ground to an ecological disaster and jeopardizing her career and friendship. Jeffrey Lo directs.

• “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” Dec. 2-27 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Swerling, the holiday production offers the beloved 1946 film as a 1940s-era radio play, complete with live Foley-style sound effects. Five nimble actors take on dozens of roles, immersing audiences in the iconic story of George Bailey as he considers suicide on Christmas Eve but discovers the impact of his life. Giovanna Sardelli directs.

• “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” Jan. 13 through Feb. 7 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Adapted by Obie Award winner Emily Mann from the best-selling memoir by Sarah L. Delany, A. Elizabeth Delany and Amy Hill Hearth, the drama features two centenarian sisters sharing the lessons they’ve learned over their exceptional century on Earth. Bearing witness to formative events from the Jim Crow era to the 1990s, the trailblazing sisters provide a vibrant and personal perspective on U.S. history. The Broadway play received three Tony nominations. Bond directs.

• “Sense and Sensibility,” March 10 through April 4 at the Lucie Stern Theatre. The regional premiere of the musical features book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon. Based on the Jane Austen novel, “Sense” follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood through their change in fortune after their father’s untimely death and ensuing romantic trials, events that test and affirm the bonds of sisterhood. While Elinor is prudent in matters of life and love, not revealing her heart’s true desire, Marianne is wildly impulsive, falling head-over-heels for a dashing but unscrupulous suitor. Kelley returns to TheatreWorks to direct.

• “Hershey Felder as Monsieur Chopin,” March 17 through April 18 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Felder, who has sold out shows performing as Irving Berlin, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky for TheatreWorks, returns to the stage as famous Polish composer Frederic Chopin. Felder tells Chopin’s story while sharing virtuoso performances of his compositions. Joel Zwick directs.

• “The Lifespan of a Fact,” late April through early May (exact dates to be announced) at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The regional premiere of the Broadway hit – written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell – is based on the book of the same name by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal. War is waged between fact and fiction when an eager journalism intern is assigned to fact-check a respected author’s groundbreaking essay for a top magazine and the piece’s “truths” don’t all align. In the current era of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” the comedy calls into question the importance of ethics versus artistic liberty. Bond directs.

• “Ragtime,” June 2-27, 2021, at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Featuring the Tony-winning book by Pulitzer Prize finalist Terrence McNally and the Tony-winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the musical is based on E.L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel. It paints a portrait of America at the dawn of the 20th century, interweaving the lives of three families – white, African-American and immigrant – finding their places and pursuing the American dream in a rapidly changing world. Kelley directs the production, which was originally scheduled to run last month.

Tickets are not yet available.

For more information, call 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.

LA Stage Company releases third installment of ‘Keeping the Light On’ video series

Town Crier Report

Los Altos Stage Company last week released the third installment of its “LASC: Keeping the Light On” video series.

The latest offering features an interview with Jenny Hollingworth, director of “Steel Magnolias,” recently postponed until next season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The video runs 9 minutes, 34 seconds.

The second installment, released late last month, touches on the recently postponed production of “Sunday in the Park with George.” The video runs 17 minutes, 11 seconds.
The series aims to inform theater patrons about LASC staff, artists, future live performances and current virtual programs.

The videos are available to view at youtube.com/user/busbarnstage.

For more information on LASC, visit losaltosstage.org.


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