Tag Archives: The Public Theater

In performance now: Colman Domingo’s warmhearted ‘Dot’

Dot.jpg

Colman Domingo, the theatrical triple threat (actor on stage, film, and TV, playwright, and director) and someone from whom I’ve always been able to count on getting a hug since the day we met in 2007 during the Public Theater run of “Passing Strange,”is at it again.

His latest play, “Dot,” had its first performance Thursday night at Manhattan’s Vineyard Theatre  a place that’s shown him a lot of love over the years.

The “Fear the Walking Dead” star’s heartwarming autobiographical “A Boy and His Soul” had a good run there in 2009, and he appeared there in the off-Broadway premiere of “The Scottsboro Boys” the following year before he went to Broadway with the show. (His second play, “Wild With Happy,” was presented at the Public Theater.) Continue reading

Suzanne Vega keeps Carson McCullers alive

Suzanne Vega onstate as novelist Carson McCullers.

Suzanne Vega onstage as novelist Carson McCullers.

New York singer-songwriter Vega has ‘rewritten’ her intimate one-woman portrait of the novelist and is recording the songs

Good news: New York singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega’s one-woman musical play about Southern writer Carson McCullers is getting a second life.

I’ve rewritten the entire play. Recording the songs today,” she told me Wednesday in response to a Facebook inquire about the show. The album is expected to come out in the Spring. 

That’s just the latest fantastic news about Vegas efforts to push her talent into the world of theater — efforts that I feared she might have abandoned.

Vega showed the world a new face in 2011 with her one-woman play “Carson McCullers Talks About Love.” She wrote and starred in the play, which featured music co-written with pop artist and “Spring Awakening” composer Duncan Sheik.

Someone who knows Vega well told me she was urged to do an out-of-town tryout before staging it in New York. But she apparently ignored the advice and launched it at the small, well-worn Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in downtown Manhattan.

As predicted, didn’t get the results or critical response she had hoped for.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times described the show as a “funky ramble through the life of that Southern writer,” but assessed it as a “messy” project.

Joe Dziemianowicz, the longtime New York Daily News theater critic who was unceremoniously dumped by the tabloid earlier this year, was a bit kinder, but didin’t offer glowing praise:

Vega traces McCullers’ life with great warmth, but at times the play’s matter-of-factness chafes. Vega isn’t fully comfortable acting a role, which is also an issue.

I saw the spare production and was delighted by Vega’s transformation into McCullers — who was only 50 years old (a couple of years younger than Vega was during the Rattlestick run) when she died in 1967 in Nyack, where had lived off and on for 30 years.

The story was fascinating and the music was full of life and told the story of the writer quite well.

Vega’s not the only artist inspired at least in part by McCullers at the  time. Gabriel Kahane’s well-received musical “February House,”  staged in 2012 at The Public Theater, was based an the book of the same name that featured McCullers and a cast of early 20th century arts icons — from Gypsy Rose Lee to W.H.Auden — who lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights for a short, intense time in the 1940s.

But Vega’s show seemed to vanish when the run ended.

While it dropped off the radar, I certainly didn’t forget about it.

I rarely respond to calls for audience requests at concerts, but even have to admit I called out for “anything from the Carson McCullers show” when Vega asked for requests at The Bell House a few years later.

She laughed and politely declined. I figured she just wanted to forget about it.

But it seems I was wrong.

Vega is performing some of the songs from the show  in concert Jan. 15 at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 15.

She rewrote the title, too, while reworking the play. It’s now called “Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers.” — a title that appears to be influenced by the final moments of the writer’s 1946 novel, “The Member of the Wedding,” which describes 13-year-old motherless character Frankie Addams feeling like “an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

For a little more from Vega about the show, check out this interview with Richmond Magazine.

“Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” is on track to return to the stage in 2016. I, for one, can hardly wait to see what Vega’s done with it.

 

 

 

Stew and The Negro Problem returning to Barbès

UPDATE: Stew Sez Showtime’s now 9:30 p.m.

Photo from Stew's Facebook announcement of the upcoming gig at Barbès.

Photo from Stew’s Facebook announcement of the upcoming gig at Barbès.

There was a moment or two of confusion Thursday morning when Stew,the singer-songwriter and Tony winner for the book of Passing Strange posted on Facebook that he and his band, The Negro Problem, would be appearing two weeks from now at “our beloved Barbès” and included the date of Oct. 25.

Stew, Heidi and an incarnation of The Negro Problem at Barbés in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew, Heidi and an incarnation of The Negro Problem at Barbés in 2011. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Well, fans of Stew’s work won’t have to wait that long. Maybe Stew is just jonesing for Fall. But according to the Barbès calendar, it’s Thursday, July 25, at 10 p.m., which is in two weeks.

Whew. Glad I could clear that up.

Stew posted a Facebook update on Friday, July 19, saying showtime was changed to 9:30. So I’m getting there by 9 just to be on the safe side:

showtime for stew & the negro problem’s BARBES show this THURSDAY JULY 25th is now 9:30. We will play some songs inspired by recent events.

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The Public Theater announces its promising new season

How can any theater lineup featuring the talents of David Byrne, Fatboy Slim, Colman Domingo, Michael John LaChiusa, Edna Ferber and more go wrong?

New York’s Public Theater has just announced its schedule for the 2012-2013 theater season.

We’re particularly excited to see the world premiere of  David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s musical Here Lies Love on the bill and are looking forward to the New York premiere of the musical Giant, based on Edna (Show Boat) Ferber’s novel with lyrics and music by Michael John LaChiusa.

But then there’s Colman Domingo‘s play Wild With Happy getting its world premiere, too!

See for yourself, after the jump.

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Have you seen The Total Bent yet?

Stew, Heidi and members of The Loser's Lounge at Barbés in Park Slope, Brooklyn. (Photos © Steven P. Marsh)

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? was supposed to see The Total Bent, the new show by Stew and Heidi Rodewald of Passing Strange fame, in one of its very first Public Lab performances at The Public Theater in downtown Manhattan last month. But then construction delays at the theater — the Public is undergoing a massive, and much-needed, facelift — got in the way.

That created some pretty massive chaos, forcing The Total Bent‘s schedule to push back. Some shows, including ours, were canceled and rebooked.

So we haven’t seen the show yet. We’ll be there for the penultimate performance on Sunday afternoon, March 18.

All the changes also forced the scuttling of interviews and press access to the creative team.

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Stew just can’t shed his Negro Problem

Stew in his breakup show, "Making It," at St. Ann's Warehouse in February 2010. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Three shows at Joe’s Pub mark Tuesday’s release of Stew & The Negro Problem’s new album, Making It

The cover of Making It features a photo by Stew's daughter, Bibi.

First of all, let’s say “welcome black” to Stew & The Negro Problem.

It’s been 10 long years since Stew (born Mark Stewart in 1961) and his band The Negro Problem made a proper, official album: 2002’s Welcome Black. But on Tuesday, Jan. 24, the wait is officially over when Making It gets its official release.

Thank goodness. It’s long overdue. But you’ll surely find it worth the wait.

It’s a crazy, creative look at the breakup of Stew’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend and musical collaborator Heidi Rodewald. The breakup came in the run-up to the pair’s amazing theater project,  Passing Strange, which briefly thumbed its nose at the Broadway establishment from the Belasco Theatre over six months in 2008. (It also lives on in a Spike Lee film of the show’s final performances.)

Heidi Rodewald and Stew. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew and Heidi managed to survive the breakup and continue their artistic relationship, albeit not without some problems. This album documents the breakup, and in some ways, the promise of their continued collaboration.

This is Stew’s fourth album under the rather provocative name of The Negro Problem, though on  this release on TNP records, the band is billed as “Stew & The Negro Problem.” And even though Stew seemed to abandon the band name in favor of his own moniker, Stew and Heidi haven’t released a rock album since 2003’s Something Deeper Than These Changes, billed simply to Stew. (Yes, there was a Passing Strange soundtrack in 2008, but that wasn’t a Stew record, let alone a Negro Problem record!)

Let’s just say it’s about time! It’s always seemed to me that Stew needs The Negro Problem to fuel his angry-not-as-young-as-he-used-to-be-man persona. (Truth be told, he’s used The Negro Problem name occasionally in recent years, but this seems to be a definitive return home.) Continue reading

Condola Rashad: Stick Fly’s not-so-secret weapon

Producer Alicia Keys to appear at post-show talkbacks this week

Condola Rashad outside the Cort Theatre. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

When Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? saw a preview performance of Stick Fly on Broadway, we had a great time. The show is flawed, never quite making a clear point while keeping the audience entertained.

But we decided to check out Lydia R. Diamond‘s play (being promoted far and wide in the name of Alicia Keys, one of the producers of the comedic family drama with a twist) even before we knew what the show was about. That’s because we we were blown away by the actor with a below-the-title billing who absolutely steals the show: Condola Rashad.

Keys will be attending the show and conducting “an intimate post-show conversation” on Monday, Dec. 19 and Thursday, Dec. 22.

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