Yesterday afternoon, I had the esteem pleasure of attending Spotlight Academy For Young Actor’s performance of “John Lennon & Me” at Good Luck Macbeth Theater. The piece follows Star, a sassy inspiring spitfire of a girl, who happens to suffer from Cystic Fibrosis – a disease passed down through families that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and other areas of the body, almost always ending in death. Star navigates the tumultuous waters of adolescent – first boyfriends, popularity, and friendship – while coming to terms with her fatal disease.
Directed by the incredible Rachel Lopez, the performance was nothing short of magical. Tears fell from my eyes as the lights faded on the world of Star and found myself giving the cast and crew a well-earned standing ovation at the end of the performance. Many people asked if I was going to write a review about the production. Quickly, and with certainty, I answered, “no”. First of all, critiquing small children & youth is the fastest way to earning a slue of enemies. Secondly, and more importantly, there’s no need for it. Was the production perfect, no, but taking to the stage takes bravery – especially at that age – and those kids deserve nothing but our support and encouragement. I was thoroughly entertained, engaged in the story, and found myself laughing silly at the playful interaction between kids and adults. It’s vital that we, as a community, support programs and initiatives such as this which afford youth the opportunity to practice their craft. As the entire run of the of the show sold out pretty much immediately, I feel many people in Reno are of a similar mindset.
We know the importance of theater and the arts in the development of youth. Participation in drama or the arts
improves academic performance, increases student engagement and attendance, and improves performance on standardized tests. More than that though, participation in drama and the arts strengthens students’ social and communication skills, builds self-esteem, and develops a youth’s levels of empathy and tolerance. In theater, an actor takes on the role of a different character whose life may be drastically different than their own. By taking on that role, children and adolescents are better able to understand and empathize with the plight of others. That is certainly true in “John Lennon & Me”. As far as I know, none of the cast members suffered from Cystic Fibrosis. However, I’m sure ,through the play, their understanding of the disease and the struggles of those with debilitating and/or life-threatening diseases has increased.
It’s important that we continue to show our support for their amazing programs like Spotlight Academy, Bruka, Tahoe Players, or Sierra School of Performing Arts. Check out their upcoming performances, workshops, and classes.
BRÜKA THEATRE Proudly Presents The Artist In The House Series-
GAMES & TECHNIQUE
WORKSHOP Led by Mary Bennett
FOR AGES 17 and up. ALL LEVELS
MARCH 18 – APRIL 29, 2014 - Tuesdays from 5:30 – 7:00 PM
(Reno, NV). Mary Bennett will lead an Improvisational Acting Workshop – Games and Techniques for ages 17 and up from March 18 – April 29, 2014 from 5:30 PM to 7 PM as part of Brüka’s Artist in The House Series. The focus of the workshop will be on the improviser as an actor and creator. We will use the base of improv games and ensemble work to dive into scene work and use improvisation techniques to create dynamic improv and storytelling in creation and performance. Bring water and comfortable, flexible clothing that you can move around in. The workshop is limited to 16 and must have a minimum of 6. The cost for 6 sessions is $50. Pleas reserve your space in advance.
ABOUT THEATRE ARTIST MARY BENNETT
Mary has been teaching, playing and work shopping improvisation techniques for oodles of years. Training includes Bay Area Theatre Sports, The American Conservatory Theatre, New York Stage and Film, and Dell Arte’ International Theatre Company. Mary is an Artist In Residence with The Nevada Arts Council, The Sierra Arts Foundation and teaches improvisation at TMCC. Performer, Director, Producer and all around thespian, she is also the Producing Artistic Director for Brüka Theatre.
Reservations must be made in advance for the workshop. Call our box office at 775.323-3221 Brüka Theatre or sign up onbrownpapertickets.com. Or visit us at 99 N. Virginia St. Reno. Reservations for all events and shows are available through our box office at(775) 323-3221.
This week, as an avid lover of all things Ancient Greece and Rome, I had to go see Pompeii. We all know the story. Big Volcano explodes, decimating the progressive city of Pompeii, reducing it, and it’s citizens to ash. In order to fill space and time, writers decided to regurgitate a boring and repetitive story line to distract us from the inevitable. Poor, enslaved – but hot as hell – gladiator mans falls for pretty rich girl who of course has been promised to an evil Roman Senator who makes it his personal mission from the Gods to destroy the boy. Well you’re in luck Mr. Senator, there’s a volcano exploding threatening to kill everyone, so mazel tov.
Reeling from the tremendous success of Stage Beauty, Bruka once again raises the caliber of theater in the Reno community with its latest dark comedy, The Lyons. Like stains on a couch, life is comprised of a series of moments; some small, some big, some unforeseen, and some outside of our control. What is within our control is how we react to these moments and how we choose to let them define our lives. Do we remain stuck, replaying the tragedies of our existence? Or, do we persevere, forging new moments, and buy a new couch?
These question and more are addressed in Nicky Silver’s hilarious yet poignant play. Meet the Lyons: the patriarch, Ben, who is dying of cancer; his passive aggressive wife, Rita, his alcoholic daughter, Lisa, and his gay son – whom he despises – Curtis. They all visit him Ben in the hospital to pay their respects and say their final goodbyes. What should be a touching family reunion turns ugly as secrets are revealed, repressed feelings are brought to life, and relationships crumble as each character ponders life without Ben Lyons. Ben struggles with his legacy while his wife Rita, trapped in a loveless marriage for years, relishes the opportunity of a clean slate and a new life. Curtis and Lisa tackle their own demons as characters realizes the fabricated facades of their lives are a sham and must deal with harsh, cold reality of their choices.
Director La Ronda Etheridge perfectly cast the production with stellar actors whose onstage chemistry is a product of beauty and magic. Etheridge demonstrates her great directorial eye with careful attention to detail. The cast displayed a level of authenticity in their performances rarely seen—having audiences believe the four leads have suffered through years of family drama and trauma together.
Tom Plunkett channels the spirit of George Carlin as Ben Lyon, embodying his brass demeanor and spot-on comedic timing. Kathy Welch portrays matriarch Rita with such commitment and sincerity as she systematically tears down each member of the family it is a thing of beauty to watch. I was both terrified of her and yet wanted to be her best friend at the same time. Also, I can die a happy man now that I have heard Kathy Welch say “cocksucker”. Sandra Neace delivers some of the best comedy I have seen in a while as Lisa Lyon. With a sideways glance or a quick change of tone, Neace understands humor and knows how to infuse comedy into the tiniest of moments. At the same time, she is able to cast an emotional silence upon the audience as she delivers a heart-wrenching monologue. To round out the leads, Bryce Keil takes on the complex and dynamic role of Curtis. I’ll admit it; I’m a fangirl of Keil; and, his depiction of Curtis, a lonely and resentful gay man looking for connection, renewed my love for him. It’s extremely difficult to play the part of a gay man and do so in a way that is authentic, non-stereotypical, and true, and Keil tapped into something truly wonderful with his performance. Kristina Harris as disgruntled but caring nurse Janet compliments the other performers. I found Robert Grant’s choices as real estate agent Brian confusing. He had great moments, but thought he got lost within the character and his motivations and intentions were unclear at times. As I mentioned previously, it is difficult to play a gay man and not rely heavily on pre-established stereotypes. Grant’s mannerisms could have been a bit more dynamic; most of the time he stood with a limp wrist and a hand on his hip creating the image of a gay teapot that I didn’t necessarily care for.
I give The Lyons, currently playing at Bruka Theatre, 4.5 ENCORES out of 5. Prepare for a night of theater filled to the brim with dark humor, punctuated with moments of vulnerability, and seeping with a sadness that redefines dysfunction in our daily lives. The Lyons runs through March 22nd; tickets are available online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/475293 or by calling the Bruka box office at (775) 323-3221.
With great anticipation, I attended the opening premiere of Bruka’s latest production, Stage Beauty, Jeffrey Hatcher’s play recounting the rise and subsequent fall of beloved actor Ned Kynaston, who has graced the London stage in such roles as Cleopatra, Ophelia, and most infamously, Desdemona. Admired and praised for his interpretations of such characters, Kynaston dominates the theater world. However, this all changes when King Charles II – prompted by his mistress Nell Gywnn – proclaims that women are permitted to act on stage and men are no longer allowed to play female parts. Kynaston loses the favor of the aristocracy, is fired from his theater, and is dumped, for a lack of a better word, by his secret love affair, the Duke of Buckingham. When all that he holds dear is taken from him, Kynaston embarks on a journey of self-discovery to find who he truly is and what his place in this brave new world is.
Rarely do I leave theatrical engagements so moved and entranced by the production that I find myself in a state of utter awe and wonderment. Striking and poignant, I sat paralyzed by what I had just seen, not quite ready to leave; not quite ready for the magic of the piece to be over. Bruka’s Stage Beauty is an aesthetic masterpiece with strategic blocking, creative set changes, and impeccable costuming that aid in bringing this foray into the joys and woes of theater and acting to life.
Director Bill Ware brilliantly cast the play with some of Reno’s finest actors – a cast I fondly refer to as the acting “Dream Team” of Reno. Bradford Ka’ai’ai owns the show as our fair Kynaston. I have seen Ka’ai’ai masterfully play a number of characters throughout my years here in Reno, but I feel this is his best role to date. Ka’ai’ai brings an engaging complexity to the character and demonstrates such range, bringing audiences to raucous laughter with his brazen wit but leaves audiences gently dabbing the tears from their eyes, as we learn that beneath the strong, confident façade of Kynaston lies a soft, graceful creature racked with insecurities and longing. Ka’ai’ai may have owned the show overall, Stacy Johnson often steals the show from him, as Nell Gywnn. Johnson’s current role as a principal for comedy troupe, The Utility Players, is apparent with her comedic timing and matter-of-fact delivery. Amy Ginder, diverging from her typical sassy female roles, takes on the challenge of soft, but ambitious, wannabe actress Margaret Hughes. Perhaps two of my favorite characters of the piece were Charles II (played by Lewis Zaumeyer) and Sir Charles Sedley (played by Michael Peters) whose superb flamboyancy is magical to watch. I feel that the some of the supporting cast members could be stronger. In a piece such as this, it’s important to find humor behind the humor; the subtle moments of jest and comedy, whether it is a knowing glance or a deadpan delivery. These moments come with confidence and understanding of the characters and their part in the larger picture of the production. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the incredible behind-the-scenes work of the crew who valiantly attempt to make the costume and scene changes as seamless as possible. My major criticism is that because there are so many transitions, the crew needs to tighten up the timing of said changes, as to not lose the energy developed and carry it onto the next scene. The transition music, though delightful, is perhaps too obvious. The ominous, foreboding sounds most certainly hinted that disaster was on the horizon as if to mentally prepare us for what is to come. There are many things in life that I need to primed and prepped for, but a scene change is not.
As a working drag queen myself, I related immensely to the plight of Kynaston, who desires to carve out a place for himself in a world that doesn’t accept him fully for who he is. For many, Kynaston’s portrayal of women on the stage is just a profession where in Kynaston’s mind, it is a part of who he is and the part of him that brings him the
most joy from life. Beyond that, I think this 17th century tale certainly has modern relevance, as too many of us have experience the cold ostracism from family, friends, and society in pursuit of our dreams. Many of us are defined by that which we do and when that is taken from us, we feel that we are floundering in the nebulous void of life attempting to find solid ground.
I give Stage Beauty 4 and half ENCORES out of 5. A mesmerizing beauty of a production that is as touching as it is ridiculous. Stage Beauty is currently now at Bruka Theater through February 9th. Get your tickets now by calling their box office at (775) 323-3221, online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/475285. or purchase tickets at the door.
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, this week I went to see the real-life accounts of Operation Red Wing in the latest American War Film, Lone Survivor. After a black ops mission goes wrong, 4 Navy Seals are stranded in the treacherous Afghanistan wilderness. Pursued by a mess of Taliban soldiers, the Navy Seals valiantly fight back while simultaneously trying to communicate to HQ for an immediate extraction. As the title suggests, only one of the soldiers survives, as he finds help in the most unlikely of places.
Good Luck Macbeth Reaches New Heights with Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
Welcome to Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. The show is an hour and ten minutes with no intermission. Enjoy!
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, this week I decided to take a bit of a risk. In lieu of seeing a major blockbuster hit, I opted to watch the artsy indie film, The Book Thief. Liesel has had a rough life; her communist mother gave her up, she lost her younger brother, and she cannot read. Her adoptive father Hans decides to begin to teach Liesel to read, a decision that opens Liesel to the wonderful and magical world of books and words. However Liesel can feel the storm brewing around her; anti-communist and anti-Semitic beliefs are growing in late 1930s Germany, and war seems unavoidable. The war is made real in Liesel’s eyes when her father takes in Jewish Refugee Maxx, an action that puts his whole family at risk. The Book Thief is a beautiful combination of one family’s struggle for survival in Nazi Germany along with one girl’s tale of empowerment and coming into her own.
Many people will not see this film. Some won’t because they believe it to be boring; what could be interesting about an orphan girl stealing books to read to her friend, escaping persecution from a tyrannical regime? Please make another film about some stupidass teen love triangle filled with angst. Some won’t because Nazism and World War 2 is heavy. Many do not like to examine the dark closets of history and therefore we try to act as if it never happened. This is sad and extremely unfortunate for The Book Thief gives new life to cinema with its gripping tale and endearing characters. We moan and cry in angst that theaters are filled with recycled trash and we, as a society, have run out of ideas. The Book Thief will make you have faith in the cinema again. First of all, Death narrates the entire film which I thought was fascinating and gives a haunting framework for the film. Secondly, Geoffrey Rush stars in the film, which can mean only one thing, the movie is freaking brilliant. The film left me a blubbering hot mess at the end; however I was not the only one. Do yourself a favor and see this film; do yourself a favor and take your children to this film. Films can do more than merely entertain us, but move us and remind us of what is important in life. I give The Book Thief 4 Xs out of 5, a remarkable look at the testament of human resilience
Good Morning Everyone! This week, filled with the holiday cheer, I opted to see Disney’s heart-warming comedy, Frozen. Princess Elsa has the gift to manipulate ice; a power she perceives as a curse and hides from the entire kingdom, even her sister Anna. On the day of her coronation as queen, Princess Elsa’s powers go a bit haywire and she accidentally traps the kingdom in eternal winter. Oopsie, Fearful of the townspeople, Elsa flees to the woods to escape. Now it’s up hopeless romantic Anna to track her sister down before it’s too late. Will Anna, along with a goofy Nordic man, a reindeer, and a snowman, be able to save the kingdom from a wintery grave?
Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s be honest, Frozen is like the movie Tangled, but with less hair and more ice. I mean, come on. Girl trapped in castle, wishing to explore the outside and fall in love, teams up with awkward yet attractive male hero with his adorable animal sidekick, all the while singing songs about their feelings. That being said though, I freaking love Tangled, and I LOVED Frozen. It didn’t even matter if it was a recycled ripoff, I ate it up like Thanksgiving dinner! I of course, like with any Disney musical, desired more songs, but LOVED the soundtrack I immediately downloaded it upon exiting the theater. Ahhhh Idina Menzel, Jonathon Groff, and Kristen Bell, my Broadway cup runeth over. Idina Menzel is everything to me in this movie. I give Frozen 4 Xs out of 5; I would have given it 5 if they had more songs for me to sing along to.
This week, I, along with majority of humanity, went to the premiere of the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire. The games may be over but Peta and Katniss are still dealing with the consequences of surviving. President Snow, fearful of the uprising caused by Katniss’ actions, takes drastic measures. For the 75th annual Hunger Games, Snow decides tributes will be pooled from existing victors, putting Katniss and Peta back into the arena. However, will Snow’s vain attempt to squash the revolution backfire in his face.