Street Stories: Homeless Hearts and Minds (Aug 2002)
Readers Theatre Repertory launched its second season of staged readings at Blackfish Gallery on August 9-10, with Street Stories: Homeless Hearts and Minds, directed by Mary McDonald-Lewis.
“Blackfish is hanging a show of homeless artists in August, which inspired me to launch our second season with a story on the same subject,” said McDonald-Lewis. “Echoing and amplifying the passion on those walls–the perspective of the displaced–is an exciting idea on an important subject.”
The director used non-traditional text, utilizing true stories of homelessness in a dramatic treatment. The cast featured Tim Delaney, Edward Elias, Richard Garfield, Sharon Knorr, Barbara Lewis, James Rogers, Joshua Salarzon, Chloe Tirabasso, and Madge Zaiko.
This was the first production of the company’s second season. Blackfish Gallery’s artist/owners are among RTR’s growing audience, and the gallery is excited about hosting the new season there.
Shakespeare, Schmakespeare (Sept 2002)
Readers Theatre Repertory continued its second season at Blackfish Gallery on September 13-14, with Shakespeare, Schmakespeare, directed by Mary McDonald-Lewis. The one-hour evening featured Tom Stoppard’s The Fifteen Minute Hamlet, and Terminating, by Tony Kushner, inspired by the Bard’s Sonnet 75.
“Stoppard’s the Shakespeare of today,” said McDonald-Lewis, “and Kushner has taken the Bard’s seventeenth century poetry and given it a contemporary twist. These two pieces are both funny and wrenching; and in that sense, honor their inspiration well.” McDonald-Lewis believed the plays’ themes reflected the one-year anniversary of September 11th: “The subject here is love and loss, and the choice we all must make in the face of that,” she says.
The cast featured Tom Beckett, Tim Delaney, Nurmi Husa, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Louanne Moldovan, Eric Newsome, Michael O’Connell, and Elizabeth Strelow.
Something Spooky This Way Comes (Oct 2002)
On October 11-12 at 8PM, Readers Theatre Repertory presented Something Spooky This Way Comes, an evening of suspense stories told by candlelight. Directed by Doreen O’Skea, the evening featured Ghost House, adapted by Walter Newman, and The Hitchhiker, by Louise Fletcher.
“I wanted to explore what makes people afraid,” said O’Skea, “and give folks a taste of that experience. Not in a movie theatre with Chuckie or Freddy, but live.” O’Skea cited our primal fear of the dark as part of her theme. “We’re telling this tale by candlelight, as though we ourselves are in a haunted house, or huddled around a campfire along a lonely stretch of desert road,” she said.
“How do we keep ourselves fearless?” O’Skea continued. “We hide in the glare of a 24-hour world, and deny the fright. What we’re going to do is embrace it, because, how can story tellers dispell the dark when there are no shadows left?”
October featured Shannon Brazil, Nurmi Husa, Lev Liberman, Rebecca Nachison, Eric Newsome, Janet Penner, and Jeffrey Siri
Veterans’ Night (Nov 2002)
With our nation poised on the brink of war, Readers Theatre Repertory considered the subject on November 15 and 16 at Blackfish Gallery with The Deserter, by Norman Beim, and Pvt. Wars, by James McLure. Bob Martin directed the shows, bringing to the evening his own experiences in the military during the Vietnam war years.
“We honor Vets this month,” said Martin, “and this is the time of year I always begin to reflect on these issues. These plays pose questions I’ve had for the past 30 years, to say nothing of the past year.”
Martin said the plays may not answer our questions, but they do what good theatre always does: gets the audience thinking. “It’s important for us to talk about this, about what we’re asking these young people to do in our name, not just for a few months in Iraq or Afghanistan, but for the rest of their lives. Being a veteran is a state that lasts a lifetime.”
Family Ties … that Bind (Dec 2002)
Not a single word about Christmas or Hanukkah , but family lied at the heart of the two stories that Readers Theatre Rep produced in December of 2002, Vivien, by Percy Granger and Haiku, by Katherine Snodgrass.
“So much about the holidays is false cheer,” said director Matthew Martin, “and families being fake with each other.”
Though neither show was about the holidays, Martin found their themes timely.. “What interests me is people struggling to be genuine with those closest to them, while wrestling with guilt and regret and their own fight to forgive. These stories are passion plays in that regard.”
Family Ties featured Peter Baker, Shannon Brazil, Tifni Twitchell Lynch, David Meyers and Laura Faye Smith.
Blood Shades of Gray (Jan 2003)
On January 10th and 11th, Readers Theatre Repertory presented The Spelling Bee, by Phillip Vassallo, I Am a Black Girl, by Portland playwright Francesca Sanders, and The Killing Hand, by David Zellnik.
“Stories about racism, genocide, homophobia; not an upbeat beginning to the new year,” agreed director Mary McDonald-Lewis. “But I want to examine the war over these differences, and the bloody path out of the battlefield.”
The director hoped the company and the audience “come into this experience with one mindset, and leave with another. No major epiphany or anything; maybe just a different way of seeing the guy next to us on the bus bench. Then standing for him, instead of against him, when it’s time.”
Cast members included David Berkson, Kenneth Denbo, Sharon Knorr, Tom Nabhan, and Chris Porter.
Sweet Tarts for the Heart: Modern Day Love Stories (Feb 2002)
On February 14-15, Readers Theatre Repertory presented a semi-sweet valentine with Sweet Tarts for the Heart: Modern-Day Love Stories. The plays are both by Alan Ball-The M Word, and Power Lunch.
“Love isn’t all hearts and roses. It’s more like a perfectly blended cocktail,” said February’s director Doreen O’Skea. “sweet and frothy, with a suggestion of something tarter underneath.” O’Skea said the stories use humor to explore people at their most vulnerable.
“Not many people are willing to take the leap to fall head over heels with another person-trusting your heart to someone else is a dangerous thing to do,” she said. “That’s what makes these stories-and love itself-so exciting.”
Cast members included Siobhan Charlesworth Caverly, Matthew Martin, Michael O’Connell, and Doreen O’Skea.
Life, Death, Art: An Irish Reel (Mar 2003)
On March 14-15, Readers Theatre Repertory honored Irish playwrights at Blackfish Gallery with Life, Death, Art: An Irish Reel. Staged were Molly and James, by Sheila Walsh, and Faint Voices, by John MacKenna.
“Both of these stories center on real men; James Joyce and the great Slane poet Francis Ledwidge,” said March’s director Mary McDonald-Lewis. “And both reveal the passion the women in their lives inspired,Joyce’s character, Molly, and Ledwidge’s actual true love.” McDonald-Lewis said in typical Irish fashion, the tales celebrate life, grieve death, and out of it all, “make art, which is a sort of resurrection.”
The evening featured Danny Bruno, Anthony Campanella, Jacque Drew, Stephanie Gaslin, and Janet Penner.
A Knock at the Door (April 2003)
On April 11-12, Readers Theatre Repertory presented two plays by Ernest Thompson: A Good Time, and The Constituent. Guest Director John Duncan said what interested him about the plays was the idea that “There you are, comfortable in your home, secluded from the troublesome human interactions that might await you outside. Suddenly there is a knock on your door. You answer it, and the world has come to you. Is it a threat or a gift?” The plays, meant to be performed together, caused Duncan to wonder whether, when we open that door, if we are ever prepared to find ourselves there.
The evening featured Max Blonde, Tom Lasswell, Laura Faye Smith, and Bill Tate.
Ruminations on Death, Disaster and Size (May 2003)
On May 9th and 10th, Readers Theatre Repertory concluded its second season with Death Knocks, by Woody Allen, and Best Half Foot Forward, by Peter Tolan. “These are hysterical stories,” said director, Doreen O’Skea. “Very, very funny plays in the face of some pretty difficult times. It’s one way I¹m coping with a world I don’t understand right now; not laughing away the pain necessarily, but finding the joy, even the ridiculous; which helps us all carry on.”
The evening featured Jared Meng, Jamie Miller, Eric Newsome, and Jeffery Siri.
This was the last production of the company’s second season, which both RTR and Blackfish Gallery have deemed another success. The gallery’s artist/owners are among the growing audience, and Blackfish is excited about hosting the third season there.