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Film Noir Meets The Stage in Helen Lawrence

Jerrica White

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1948 Vancouver. Recession. Grim. Noir. Human experience.

As part of the 2015 Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music will present the US premiere of the unconventional “high tech cold dark night,” Helen Lawrence.

Conceived and directed by Stan Douglas (David Zwirner Gallery) and written by Chris Haddock (CBC’s Davinci Inquest and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), Helen Lawrence disrupts the traditional theatrical experience by simultaneously projecting a film on a scrim while actors act behind it.

You read that correctly. Helen Lawrence is a play and film at the same time.

Haddock invites us to “join the expedition into unexplored territory: into the past for source and future for the technology.” Through use of camera-controlled software, the actors and their actions seen on stage are simultaneously projected in a complete and fully staged film. The show seeks to highlight the essence of an era— a time where people coped with the reality of economic hardship, war, and depression— in a full bodied, all encompassing, experience that sometimes only a film can deliver. But it’s roots are grounded in theatre. Although we see the story on a scrim reminiscent of the grandiose point of view of a movie screen, we remember that behind every story there is a person. A character. An actor. And their experience. We see both. We see a larger than life depiction of a time with which many of us are not familiar, and we see the real human, which further allows us to identify with their story.

Douglas, a prominent Black Canadian artist, is known for his photography and projection-based work. He was one of the first artists to be part of the New York based gallery, David Zwirner. Helen Lawrence made its debut at  the Vancouver Arts Club Theatre Company in the spring of 2014. It has also been presented at the Munich Kammerspiele, the Edinburgh International Festival, and Canadian Stage in Toronto.

Haddock described this project as “new and untried artistic” and how, because of this, it was irresistible to him.

I look forward to the new and untried when it comes to theatre. When you’re passionate about an art form that’s under criticism as fading out of relevance, it’s amazing to see glimpses into its future, its livelihood, its unconventionality, and its place in the world of entertainment.

What A Time To Be Alive.

For more information click HERE!

Helen Lawrence: BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival trailer

Celebrated visual artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock take film noir to high-tech heights, inserting actors via blue screen into a two-toned cinema landscape of seedy hotels and skid-row streets.

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Lynn Nottage Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

Broadway Black

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Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Tony Award nominated play Sweat ended its Broadway run at Studio 54 on June 25. We weren’t ready to say goodbye to Sweat, and we’re definitely not ready to say goodbye to Lynn Nottage, leaving us to wonder what’s next for the two-time Pulitzer prize-winning playwright?

First, if you didn’t get a chance to see Sweat on Broadway or if you did but can’t get one of the poorest cities in America off your heart and mind, then you’ll want to visit Reading, Pennsylvania this summer. Shortly after finishing Sweat, Nottage came up with the idea for a site-specific performance installation honoring the people of Reading. Nottage shared that for a city divided by economical and racial politics, she wanted to highlight the city’s potential to use art and culture to bring its citizens together. The installation titled This is Reading will weave “individual stories into one cohesive and compelling tale of the city. Exploring the various viewpoints of the diverse community, [and] give the audience a vibrant and unique perspective of the city of Reading.” The installation will utilize live performance, visual media, and film. Located at Franklin Street Station, Reading PA, This is Reading will run July 14-16, July 21-23 and July 28-30.

What could possibly be next for Nottage? A musical of course!

Not just any musical, but an adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Secret Life of Bees. Book by Nottage, music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Jelly’s Last Jam) and direction by Sam Gold (Fun Home).

Nottage’s first musical follows the story of Lilly Owens, a white teen growing up in 1960’s South Carolina and her Black caretaker Rosaleen. After Rosaleen is hospitalized following an attempt to vote, she and Lily do their best to escape the harsh realities of their respective lives in the Jim Crow South, and happen upon a bee farm. “It sang to me” Nottage said of adapting Kidd’s book to a musical, “Every page I saw a song.”

The Secret Life of Bees will be presented as a workshop production at the Powerhouse Theater from July 27-29, apart of the New York Stage and Film’s 2017 season.

Finally, for the 2017/2018 season, Nottage’s play Mlima’s Tale will make it’s world premiere at The Public Theater and run from March 27 through May 20, 2018. Mlima’s Tale follows the story of Mlima, an african elephant caught between freedom and the

Courtesy of The Public Theater

international ivory black market. Ultimately a story about trade itself, “Mlima leads us through memory and fear, history and tradition, want and need, and reveals the surprising and complicated deals that connect us all.” Next season, The Public will celebrate 50 years at its Astor Place location, and Lynn Nottage will be the only Black playwright with work presented.

From a site-specific performance installation, to her first musical, ending with another show at The Public Theater… Lynn Nottage has given us a lot to look forward to following her Broadway debut, and we will be ready. Sitting front and center.

 

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Hercules Plans to Go the Broadway Distance

Broadway Black

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The 1997 Disney animated film “Hercules” will soon become a Broadway musical, according to composer Alan Menken.

In an interview with The Orange County Register, Menken discussed his participation in the upcoming D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA. He will provide a behind the scenes look at his role in several Disney productions including “Aladdin”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Newsies”, and “The Little Mermaid”. Notice a pattern here? All of those productions are now Tony-winning (or in the case of The Little Mermaid, nominated) Broadway musicals.

Bringing 90’s Disney films to life on stage appears to be the new trend as for each aforementioned production, roughly 20 years has passed since the Disney theatrical release. When asked which films he thought were underrated, Menken replied “I have a very strong belief like “Newsies”, “Hercules” is going to have a moment that will surprise people. Actually, I’m working on a stage version of “Hercules.” So far, no timeline or casting has been announced for this project.

If the 20 year waiting period from screen to stage can be believed, we should probably look forward to an announcement next year about a stage production of either “Mulan” or “A Bug’s Life.” Both were released in 1998, but we’re crossing our fingers for the one that’s more likely to star Lea Salonga.

The “Hercules” animated film starred the voices of Lillias White (Dreamgirls), Cheryl Freeman (The Civil War), LaChanze (The Color Purple), Roz Ryan (Ain’t Misbehavin’) and Vanéese Y. Thomas (R&B Single “Let’s Talk it Over”) as the muses and narrators of the tale, Keith David (Jelly’s Last Jam) as Apollo, Roger Bart (Big River) as Hercules’ singing voice and Susan Egan (Beauty and the Beast) as Megara.

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