Long Wharf, TheaterWorks, Hartford Stage Start the New Year

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Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater

By Karen Isaacs

Guitars and More: Long Wharf is beginning the new year with The Lion, through Sunday, Feb. 7.  It is written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, According to the press materials, “Benjamin Scheuer uses his guitar — actually, six guitars — in The Lion, a wholly original musical experience of one man’s gripping coming-of-age story. The award-winning songwriter inspires and disarms with his raw wit and emotional depth as he leads you on his heartfelt journey to manhood, through pain and healing, to discover redemption through the power of music.” The show has played off-Broadway and on tour. For tickets contact longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.  It is at Stage II.

War and Photography: The new theatrical work at Hartford Stage through Sunday, Jan. 31 is The Body of An American, by playwright, poet and librettist Daniel O’Brien.  According to the press material, the play is centered on Canadian photojournalist Paul Watson who is haunted by the words, “If you do this, I will own you forever,” he heard a dying soldier say as he took the photo that would win him the Pulitzer Prize and reshape American foreign policy. “Playwright Dan O’Brien, struggling with ghosts of his own, reaches out to Watson, and the two forge a friendship as they reckon with the traumas that have shaped their lives.” A co-production of Primary Stages in NYC, the production will have a limited off-Broadway engagement at the Cherry Lane Theater in February and March.  Michael Crane and Michael Cumpsty star in the production directed by Jo Bonney. The play was the winner of the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize, the Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play and the PEN Center USA Award for Drama. For tickets visit Hartfordstage.org or call 860-527-5151.

Barbra the Collector: TheaterWorks is starting 2016 with the off-Broadway hit, Buyer and Cellar. Apparently Barbra Streisand has so many beautiful things that she built a mall of make-believe shops in her basement to hold the collections.  Playwright Jonathan Tollins uses that is inspiration for the story of Alex, an under-employed Los Angeles actor who gets gig working in the basement mall, taking care of the stores and interacting with the great Streisand.  Tom Lenk, known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer plays Alex in the solo show.  It runs through Sunday, Feb. 14. For tickets call 860-527-7838; for information visit theaterworkshartford.org.

 A Conversation:  Photojournalist Paul Watson who is the inspiration for The Body of an American which is being produced at Hartford Stage will join the playwright Dan O’Brien for a conversation on Monday, Jan 11.  Dr. Harold I. Schwartz, psychiatrist-in-chief at Hartford Hospital’s The Institute for Living will be part of the panel that discusses the friendship between Watson and O’Brien and the play.  The Institute for Living is nationally recognized for treating trauma, including combat-related PTSD. For information about the panel, contact hartfordstage.org.

CT Humanities Council Funds Activities: The Connecticut Humanities Council has granted Hartford Stage $1,500 to help support four free community events tied to its production of The Body of an American. In addition to the conversation of Monday, Jan. 11, the events include an art exhibit from members of the Veterans Art Foundation, “War Talk” with playwright Dan O’Brien and author Emma Sky at the Mark Twain House on Thursday, Jan. 13 and a post-performance panel “The Journey Home: A Veteran’s Perspective” following the performance on Thursday, Jan. 21. For information visit hartfordstage.org/body-of-an-american.

National Arts Award: The National Endowment for the Arts has given Hartford Stage an Arts Work grant of $10,000 to host a variety of special events tied to the production of the new musical Anastasia. According to the theater, the musical provides “a unique opportunity to engage a wide-ranging audience – including children, students and families – to learn about monumental historical events in a thoroughly entertaining format while exploring how politics quickly turned life upside down for an entire region and the simplicity of a fairytale about a young woman attempting to find her footing in the world.” Anastasia is opening in May.

A Departure:  In June of this year, Michael Ross will step down as managing director of Westport Country Playhouse to join Center Stage in Baltimore as managing director.  He had served there in that role from 2002 to 2008. In addition to serving at the playhouse since 2009 when Mark Lamos was named Artistic Director, Ross has extensive ties to Connecticut; he had served as managing director of Long Wharf and in a variety of position including general director at Hartford Stage.


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